When I was about 17, I was arguing with my brother, Aaron, who would have been 15. We are both admittedly quite stubborn. My memory doesn’t serve me well on why we were arguing so fiercely. (Isn’t that the way it usually goes?) But I do remember that he was wrong! Yet, he wouldn’t relent, and he wouldn’t listen either. As I began to explain how thoroughly wrong he was, he covered his ears with both hands and shouted in my face, “LA LA LA LA LA!”
So, I hit him.
I regretted it immediately, but I punched him straight in the face.
Bracing for the fight I assumed was coming, I was shocked to see him recover and stop short. He glared for a moment in anger, swallowed hard, and then his harsh countenance faded to pain. I was stunned to see it just as he turned, leaving me in the living room alone. Instead of hitting me back, he punched a massive hole in our parents’ wall on his way out.
I felt tiny.
The truth was that I wanted him to hit me back. If he had only hit me back, I’d have felt justified somehow – we’d be “even”. But by absorbing it, and turning the cheek (literally), he delivered the most devastating blow.
Trying to recover from the haymaker he dealt my pride, pondering how to make things right with him, I stared there at the gaping hole. The only thing left in the room with me, it swallowed me. The punch I dealt him was visible somehow, looming there in my face. The only way to heal us was to repair it together, so I prepped the materials, found him outside and slowly handed him a joint knife.
“We’ll fix it together,” I invited him, apologetic and remorseful. He accepted the tool from my hand and nodded, tears in both our eyes. You see, it might not have been my fault there was a hole in the wall, but it was just as much my responsibility.
What are the holes in our world, the wounds we’ve inflicted, the blows dealt long ago and forgotten, yet still they remain?
When we face the major fractures of our world (the phobias and ‘isms), we face massive damage beyond our comprehension to repair. Ruins remain, literally and figuratively. And this inescapable complexity of our history is often answered with the cliche that everything is in God’s control. Some will even insist that God is behind these chaotic events, a puppet master pulling the strings of history, lifting up and tearing down at whim. You’ve maybe heard microcosms of this idea:
Your child died, because God wanted them in heaven.
A tsunami wrecks an entire coastline, because God was angry.
Your wife dies young with cancer, and God has a reason for it.
Follow it out – are you against abortion? God has a purpose for it. Murder? God is up to something there. Sex slavery? Abusive dictatorships? Terrorism? Rape? Torture? If God has a purpose for these, the logic here would say that working against them is, in effect, working against God.
But, the truth is: God is not “in control” – He’s sovereign. There’s a difference.
God is not controlling – He’s reigning. There’s a difference.
And God is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:15), which means He’s not in collusion with the darkness in our world.
If everything evil that happens was ‘supposed’ to happen, then we should never work against anything, ever. But I bet you do. I bet you raise money or toil tirelessly to repair the brokenness in your world.
The phrase “God is in control” is altogether too convenient of a cliche for simply throwing up our hands whenever it suits us, without losing sleep over it. As Dr. Chris Green says, “There is a false understanding of our faith that says ‘God has done everything that needs to be done, and I just trust it.’ As if the goal is to become as irresponsible as possible.”(emphasis added)
So, when I watched little Omran Daqneesh, the Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of his home, in the back of an ambulance, I couldn’t turn my eyes from him, his bewilderment as he touched his forehead, his realization that he was bleeding, his attempt to wipe it away without being noticed. I lost myself weeping in my kitchen, staring at my laptop screen as I wondered if this little boy still had any parents to hold him. “Bring him to me, I’ll be his father,” I mumbled in prayer.