On fire and not consumed: living with God’s nonsense


I imagine that is not the answer that Moses was hoping for when he asked the Lord what to say to the Israelites when they asked who sent him. What kind of answer is that?

Domenico Fetti 004

Though just yesterday I was raving about the mystery that comes with religious faith, I should admit that there are times when things were a bit more clear. It’s usually when someone is asking me a question (Why do you believe in God? Why do you go to Church? What happens when you pray?) and I can’t give the clear, rational answers that have become the hallmark of the modern intellectual.

For as many times as someone else is not satisfied with my answer, there are times I’m not satisfied with God’s answers. God was good to bless me with the conviction that all will be well, that God loves us, that the universe at its core is run by love and that the world was created good. I was also blessed with a life of ease for many years, that made it second nature to believe these things.

But as I get older God speaks to me through inscrutable signs, and I wonder why it has to be this way. How do the pains of life fit into the world’s goodness? Why am I burdened with trials when all I want to do is serve a God of love? Why can’t I shake the feeling that all will be well when the signs point to all not being well?

And the answer I get? A burning bush, aflame but not consumed.

I’m happy not to be destroyed, but I’d rather not go near the fire at all. I want simple answers. I want things to make sense.

Or do I? Here’s something else that doesn’t make sense, also from this Sunday’s readings:

There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’

God’s mercy does not make sense, and yet I sing of it anyway, proclaiming over and over that the Lord is kind and merciful. If I allow myself to be consoled by the beautiful side of God’s nonsense, I should embrace the darker questions.

Even if I can’t bring myself to embrace, I rejoice knowing that with the psalmist is where my heart lies. Hope is my theological virtue, and my soul knows that God’s mercy abounds even when I’m scorched and confused.

On a related note, if you have not read Paul Mariani’s poem Quid Pro Quo you need to read it right this second. 
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