Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodness and mercy

"Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life..."

I can still remember the smell of the opthomologist’s office in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. I can remember the strange sensation of the drops used to dilate my eyes, and the amazing things the doctor did with the phoropter, that funny machine with all the lenses. Going back to the office a few weeks later and walking out with my first pair of glasses, I was shocked!

With my horned rim “coke bottle” glasses I could see things all the way down to the end of the street and read the signs a block away! I could see the ant’s crawling across the sidewalk and the small wasps buzzing the flowers high in the trees.

My glasses could change my vision, but they couldn’t change my perspective. If there is a gene for pessimism and cynicism, I got it. I still saw all that was wrong with the world, and rarely noticed when things were going well. This has been a lifetime struggle for me.

This Lent I began by pondering the "Problem of Good." Why is there so much good in the world? Why do so many wonderful things happen every day, even to bad people? Why is there so much joy and laughter and fun in the world? Why are there so many caring, compassionate people?

It is a serious theological problem. Why does God allow so much good? Why does God allow any good?

I am blessed with the ability to notice all that is wrong with the world. I can see real problems, potential problems, and very unlikely future problems.I notice the bad and I can deal with the "Problem of Evil." But I am working hard this Lent to deal with the "Problem of Good."

We used to have an old Chevy. There could be 6 or 7 things wrong with the car, and yet it would start and run, morning after morning. The transmission needed work, the power steering needed work, the fuel injection system needed work, the oil needed changing, the air filter looked like a dirtball, the master cylinder had a small leak. Yet the car never seemed to notice! I swear that car had a cheerful, helpful disposition!

At 56, I have a few mechanical defects too. A stiff joint here, an ache there, too much of this, not enough of that, and more. If I’m not careful and intentional I can focus and complain about what is wrong and not notice that most important equipment, like heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, and more is still working!

So, God grant me grace to be like that old Chevy, cheerfully starting, and being ready to face each day with grace and thankfulness.

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