I hate ’11’

English: Photo of Rhinoplasty Nose Surgery Cos...
English: Photo of Rhinoplasty Nose Surgery Cosmetic Surgery Procedure being Performed by Facial Plastic Surgeon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are some circumstances in my life right now that are at maximum suckage.  If in fact suckiness was an electric guitar amp, some doofus from Spinal Tap would have cranked it all the way to 11.  I’m not in a position that I want to blog directly about this sucky event.  I hope that doesn’t seem coy.

Instead, I want to blog a bit about suckiness in general.  As I’ve been searching for a Godly way to deal with all this, I’ve found myself in the amazing hands of CS Lewis.  There is this quote that really struck a chord with me.  It’s from a Grief Observed:

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is… hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist.  The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness… Suppose you are up against a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good.  The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more he will go on cutting.

This resonated with me because I’m feeling a bit like I’m on The Great Surgeon’s operating table.  And I think the temptation is tell me, as I submit to his scalpel, that I am all wrong.  But let’s be careful here.  Some bizarre circumstances lead to you as a metaphorical cheer leader while God operates on me.  As you get those pom-poms ready, the thing is, first off, you’re not just disagreeing with me.  You’re disagreeing with C.S. Lewis.  And C.S. Lewis, his works are like honorary scripture.  You can’t disagree with him.

Snarkiness aside, you can’t disagree with him because he’s not all wrong.

I’m not saying it’s all right.  There are other mitigating factors.  There are truths to hold in tension with this truth.  While we hold the image of God as a merciless surgeon in one hand, we certainly can hold the image of God as a loving father in the other.  While we grasp the reality that the surgeon would be unmoved by our cries, we can grasp on to the truth that God enters history for us and through us; he feels our pain.  He cries with us.

These gentler truths help me to bare up under the more difficult ones.  But I have this awareness, as I am in this pain.  This is the thing that I am aware of:

We have this tendency to want to invalidate the harsh truths.  We want this immature and one-sided view that lives in denial of the more difficult things.  Perhaps it is built into us.  Perhaps it is a sign of the times.

We want to go back the way that we came.  We want to return to the Garden of Eden through the exit we were kicked out of.

We want to yell at Job to snap out of it.  We want him to just forget what he knows and climb out of the ashes.  We want Elisha to turn a blind eye to the terrible things he saw.  We want Jesus to say, “Just kidding, it didn’t really hurt at all.”

I’m holding on to something.  I wish I could say I was holding it firmly.  I’m getting there.  And the thing I’m holding on to is this:

There will be a time and a place beyond the tears.  It’s easy to think what I really want is to have my knowledge and experience erased.  The world, and often even the church, they tell me that I ought to just look past the hard things.

But do I really want that?  Do I want to find it was just all a roll-playing game at the end?  The apparent struggling and pain were actually meaningless?

I’m not sure if I’m saying what I want to say, but the point is that maybe we should stop trying to back up and drive around the pain, uncertainty, despair.  Maybe we get to some new place by driving through it.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

9 thoughts on “I hate ’11’”

  1. I hear you. I also want to quickly move past the thing that is hurting, so that it is just a memory, maybe painful, maybe not, but not quite so sharp. To say “hey, remember when…?” but not feel it, not relive it.

    It takes courage, and faith, to be in that painful place, to not run away, to stay there while the work is being done. No anesthesia, either.

    Thanks for the post. Godspeed, Jeff — I’ll be keeping you in my prayers.


    1. It’s so true: the ‘remember when’ thing is such a cop out– like we get to brag that once upon a time we went through x, but now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s so cheap and easy. And thanks for the prayers. I’ll take all I can get.


    1. 😉
      When I’m in the middle of stuff, sometimes my writing is at it’s best. And other times it’s at it’s worst. I can’t usually tell ’till after the fact. Nice to get a nod that this one will be one I can be proud of.


  2. The master double entendre, wholeheartedly agree with you, not that it makes it any easier to go through. My thoughts and prayers are for you right now.


  3. i find that the analogy of the surgeon is a bit wicked. i prefer the one about the gardener who prunes. The surgeon is in the end doing harm that leaves scars, and the patient is rarely better than before. The gardener’s plant always blooms more beautiful.


    1. For me, though, the question becomes is the wickedness of the image over the top, or is the wickedness kind-of the point? From where I stand now, it feels a little bit like the image of the gardener is just so namby-pamby and sanitized. I’m hip to the fact that where I stand now has no more inherent truthfulness than other places I might stand. It’s also a fair point, that human surgeons carry with them human weaknesses and mediocrities. But the gardener image falls flat for me because (given that I’m not a flower), the idea of having parts of myself snipped off isn’t nearly as visceral as having a surgeon go to town on me. It seems to me if we posit a divine surgeon, his patients will always heal more beautifully than they were before he went to work on them. Just seems like the surgeon idea reckons with the truth of the painfulness of God’s work in us.


      1. BTW: your responses are always so thought-provoking that I find myself exploring, debating, and questioning them before I even know what I’m doing. I hope you read this as a testament to your insight, and not that I’m wanting to be cantankerous or find you disagreeable.


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