Hate. Bigotry. Terrorism. Gun violence. Homophobia. The opiate epidemic. Refugee crises. Dysfunction in Washington. The list goes on… a daunting stream of bad news. So bad we risk become inured… shrug it off as the “new normal,” or wring our hands and despair, deciding we can’t possibly do anything about it.
Meanwhile we are taught that God is Love... infinite love. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. God created the world and everything in it, and God loves us all. Do you believe this? I do.
But it often feels like there’s an enormous disconnect between all the trouble in the world and trust in a loving God who is omniscient and omnipotent, who is taking care of us all.
What could God possibly be thinking in allowing some of this stuff?
Well, I don’t know. And my guess is you don’t know either. And it’s sometimes a test of faith to accept that God created us exactly as we should be… with all our human imperfections. But I believe that God is perfect, and that God knows exactly what God is doing. I think part of being human is being challenged to accept Reality, as God made it, praying for God’s help to do our best with what we have, and praying for God’s forgiveness when we’re wrong.
God gave each of us a conscience, free will, and some guidance in making moral choices. And God speaks through people… us, and actions speak louder than words. This means that what we do matters. And with all our imperfections, amid an often bewildering cacophony of Real-World problems, we need to keep trying to do God’s will as best we can, with God’s help. As the old farmer said, “Pray for rain, but keep on plowing.”
Most human behavior is far less spectacular than the genius of Leonardo or the selflessness of Mother Theresa. They were outliers who used their special gifts to push the boundaries of what it means to be human. The rest of us often feel satisfied with coloring within the lines, working for a living, fulfilling our family and civic responsibilities, appearing at church, giving to charity. Most of our failings involve lesser sins like procrastination and carelessness.
Sins of omission. Thinking about doing things we know we should do, but not doing them because we’re tired, or got a better offer, or have to catch the latest episode of “Game of Thrones.” Multi-tasking, half-listening to our partner while watching the news and making a grocery list. Sins of denial. Excuses for inconvenient aspects of Reality. How much does my vote really count? Do I really need to sort my trash? Turn off the lights? Send a get-well card? Does it matter? Or can someone else do it?
Do you remember Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, The Tipping Point? He argued for everyone trying to do the right thing all the time, recognizing that it takes just that one last right thing, maybe your act of kindness or your vote… to tip the scales in the right direction.
Actions do speak louder than words, and even tiny little right things add up! Did you know that if you use a revolving door in summer when A/C is on, this can save enough electricity to power a light bulb for 65 minutes? I didn’t either, but I saw a sign to this effect last week while visiting a friend in the hospital, so now I know.
As President Obama said after the Orlando massacre: “Outrage isn’t enough. Prayer isn’t enough. Moments of Silence aren’t enough. We need action.” Of course people need to grieve tragedies like Orlando, but then we need to move on to positive action rather than paying lip service with platitudes or wallowing in despair. Walk the talk! Take a little more risk. Be purposefully kind. Encourage or compliment someone.
We know what to do. But we often don’t do it because we are frustrated or unsure or fearful. But always trying to do the next right thing is a high form of spiritual practice, which works. We improve and the world improves if we respond to God’s challenge, not to be perfect, but to grow into our best selves and together, make the world a better place.
As all spiritual practices, this takes… uh, practice… and sometimes we get discouraged. But we can always do better, and as dangerous and chaotic as the world is, when we each keep nudging things in the right direction, we just might tip something… maybe something big… in the right direction.
Some suggestions: Switch off the TV, or watch the ballgame instead of CNN or Fox. Dial back the social media and name calling in this supercharged political season. No one is insane, a moron, or a “world-class liar,” just because he or she disagrees with you. Keep your phone off during dinner. Listen more attentively, even if you’re heard it before. What is someone you care about really trying to say?
Get to know someone you don’t like, or someone you have always ignored, or someone of another race or religion. Really get to know them. It’s amazing how different personal experience is from hearing about “problems” on TV or the internet.
Disconnect. Chill. Smile. Go for a walk. Go to bed… you get the idea.
We were all made by God, we are loved by God, and forgiven for our human imperfections…let’s recommit ourselves to facing each day in our troubled world, with less frustration and anger, and with more determination to focus more on the precious small things we think of doing but often don’t do.
Let each of us, as St. Francis prayed, work consciously and mindfully at being a channel of God’s peace and love and hope. Amen.