It’s Not Fair

One student makes straight A’s without trying, and another does everything she can to pull a C.

One sister has stair-step babies, and the other can’t conceive in twenty years.

One friend’s parents thoughtfully encourage their children’s strengths. Another set of parents disregards or disapproves.

One lady has a husband and a respected degree by age thirty. Another has neither at sixty.

One girl is wooed by the man of her dreams. Another girl is invisible except to a mental patient.

One friend has money to vacation in Italy while another can’t afford a $20 concert ticket.

One couple celebrates one year of marriage and pronounces the year fun. Another couple fights three kinds of deadly cancer in their first year.

It’s not fair.

You shake your head at the balance scales. You whisper the words to a friend because for some reason you’re not supposed to say them. Or you sob into your pillow until you snort, and the universe keeps on humming, and friends never mention the disparity, and  the scenario keeps on not being fair.

To the one with a grim diagnosis. To the single bridesmaid at the eleventeenth wedding. To the bereaved and wrecked and poor: it’s not fair.

This is reality when the sun shines or when the rain blows. The Almighty and Omnipotent Father sits on His beautiful hands and does nothing to level the balance scales. There is no justice. You can do everything right and be a good girl and do what you were always told to do but there are no guarantees and it’s a fallacy to believe that everything will turn out like it should.

Part of my journey to wholeness includes being honest about the injustices I observe and experience. It seems much more wholesome to be able to call a spade a spade than to act as if it’s something else.

So: it’s not fair.

There are things I weep and howl over, dreams I ache for, friends I hurt with, prayers I beg God with the most persuasive words I can find.  To do otherwise would be to deny reality and be a flippant, chirpy, hollow, obnoxious voice in a cavern of unanswerable questions.

While maturity acknowledges that things aren’t fair, wisdom doesn’t stay there. It’s a child who mopes and sits outside the game and whines that it’s not fair. An adult who does that for days and weeks and months is pretty ugly, in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no easy way to do this, but when that forty-leventh bride has been whisked into the sunset, you sometimes have to take yourself by the scruff of the neck and turn yourself 180 degrees toward the east and make a list of other things that aren’t fair.

This is part of my list:

  • I sleep on a dry, thick, super-comfy Tuft and Needle mattress while refugees sleep on blankets that hang out of their tiny, squished-together tents.
  • I have a job that enabled me to buy a car, while a friend can only afford to drive a borrowed car.
  • I’m lonely and long for companionship but it’s not fair that another woman’s loneliness is infinitely, agonizingly greater after her husband abandoned her and their three little children, the baby with Down Syndrome.
  • I had major surgery in a foreign country and had the best of care and no complications and have been given a new life but my friend battles incurable illness and huge medical costs.

It’s not fair.

I’m stupendously, staggeringly, unreasonably rich and spoiled and comfortable, and it’s not a bit fair. It’s not fair that my friends and the rest of humanity walk through crazy amounts of pain and tears that I never do. I’m not being glib or flippant about this. I cry often about sad things and injustice and longings on my behalf and others’. I experience hard, hard, things about each of my list entries.

But the great and grand and shining reality is that the present injustice is not all there is. It takes the long view to see more than is apparent to the naked eye. The long view is the truest view.

It’s ok to say it’s not fair, but it’s not ok to stay there. Because at some point–after about an hour or a day or a week–wisdom and grace and the presence of Jesus are waiting to turn us to the east and see light and hope and a far green country under a swift sunrise.*

*That last phrase is what Gandalph said.

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Story of a Hymn

George Matheson went irreversibly blind when he was 20. His fiancee said she could not see herself be the wife of a blind man. So she broke their engagement shortly before their wedding date. From that point, his younger sister helped care for him and George went on to become a pastor and seminary lecturer.

Twenty years later, his sister was to be married and would leave him.  On the eve of her wedding while he was alone and his family was celebrating in another house, these lines came to him.  He said the words came quickly, as if inspired. They reveal a broken, weary man’s agony. The only thing in his heart that was larger than his pain was his deep, sure faith in God and His promises; He was confident that things wouldn’t always be the way they were now.

Mim, this post is for you. Sorry you had to wait this long for it…

 

1. O Love that wilt not let me go, (there once had been a love that did let him go)

I rest my weary soul in Thee;

I give Thee back the life I owe,

That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be. (he knew God would value his contribution; he believed he had something to offer)

 

2. O Light that foll’west all my way,

I yield my flick’ring torch to Thee; (a reference to his blindness)

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be. (again, he had something to give God—a humble, faithful act of offering)

 

3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to Thee; (it is easier to close your heart in the presence of pain)

I trace the rainbow thru the rain, (in his blindness, he couldn’t see it, except through his fingers and then only in faith)

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be. (his faith knew his what his sight couldn’t: that sunshine comes after rain)

 

4. O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from Thee; (the human response to pain is to fly from it)

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be. (his faith knew there would be color someday)

 
Lyrics: George Matheson
Music: Albert Lister Peace, arr. by David Phelps

Grace on a Plate

Grace isn’t shocking enough to make the headlines. The words that give life and breath to the panting and exhausted don’t usually get said loudly enough for the world to hear. They’re whispered, or mouthed, and seen only by several eyes. But that doesn’t make them less important or powerful.

Micha Boyett wrote wise words here after a public, unloving book critique and a soft, gracious answer to that–actually, an invitation for a meal. The result of this grace was a gentle apology, and a great illustration of how powerful mercy is.  I found these words beautiful and convicting because when I hear criticism about my book, I am carnal enough that I drafted  a scathing, frigid letter sooner than send a dinner invitation.

After Jesus’s disciples absconded, and started living as though they’d never been with Him, He pursued them, gave them a miracle at work, and cooked breakfast for them. I wish I could have been there. His grace to them that morning had to have changed them profoundly–which is what grace and mercy does in its quiet way, without headlines and hoopla.

Micah is writing about words and relationships across the internet, which is an important part of communication. But I want grace to be even more important to me in the real-time, real-life words and actions that I engage in every day, in as normal things as breakfast or dinner.

I find the Internet to be the hardest place to follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed is she who has the most blog hits? Blessed is he who stands by his theological stance with the most vigor and resentment?

On the Internet, we can talk a good game about Jesus. We don’t have to know each other. We don’t have to love each other from afar. Instead we can pick on each other’s wounds and brokenness and separate ourselves into more and more theological camps. Who needs denominations? We can just align ourselves with the blogger who reads the Bible the way we do and criticizes the ones we like to criticize.

We can be a generation of sarcasm, biting, and cutting. We can roll our eyes and slam the laptop shut. Then open it up again to see if all our friends on Twitter agree.

Or, we can learn earnestness from the example of Voskamp’s genuine kindness. We are also invited to hold the gospel out. We are invited to prepare a table and set a place for the one who criticizes our lives, our beliefs, our art. We are invited to live out the blessing of Jesus:

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

The world does not need angry theology: it needs a true, good story. It needs the good news that God’s compassion is deep enough to rescue, to remake, to restore our broken lives.

After all, we are followers of a Messiah who said in his kingdom our job is not to win the argument: it’s to make the peace, to see God, to show mercy.