View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is that a fly in my soup?

Every night before dinner, my family and I hold hands and pray.

We thank God for the good things that have happened, we pray for other people who might need strength and help, and we pray for our own needs. Sometimes we also make comments or even jokes.

Because we’ve had some tough times lately, the other night I prayed, “Lord, they say you never give us more than we can handle. I think you’re overestimating me.”

It got the desired effect of getting everyone around the table smiling and laughing.

But in thinking about it later I realized that I don’t agree with the saying as it is often understood.

First, I don’t believe God “gives” us everything that comes our way.

Oh, I believe that life and all that is in it is a gift from God. But I think some of the specific bad things in it come from other sources. We are all affected by the consequences of our own decisions and deeds, the choices and actions of other people, and sometimes just the arbitrary forces of nature.

The decision to eat that burrito with the nuclear hot sauce, the boss who treated me unfairly, the fly that landed in my soup can’t necessarily be blamed on God’s direct action. (Well, maybe the fly: God does have a sense of humor).

Remember that in the story of Job, while God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, God himself did not inflict the misfortunes.

This doesn’t mean that God might not for his own purposes send bad things my way (such as that fly in my soup), but I don’t believe he is directly involved in causing them all.

Second, I believe that we do sometimes face problems that we really can’t handle. There are times when people suffer nervous breakdowns or mental problems. There are people who are addicted in ways they can’t control.

It’s at that point that we have to turn to a “higher power,” as the 12-step programs describe it. We have to rely on God.

Of course, turning to God for help and strength is a choice, and in this sense we do “handle” the problem. But that’s the same thing as a person hanging from a cliff reaching out to take an outstretched hand from someone trying to save him. He could choose not to reach out, just as we can choose to ignore God’s help.

So if I wanted to be accurate, I could have prayed for God’s help and for the openness, courage and strength to accept that help.

Of course, that wouldn’t have gotten my family smiling.

Maybe I could have added St. Teresa of Avila’s quip: ““If this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few!"

But then, I might have ended up with a fly in my soup.


Blogger Talmida said...

The line my mother taught me is that God shapes the back to carry the burden.

God's not the one who puts the fly in the soup (excepting God's sense of humour, of course!) but He is the one who can strengthen us to deal with that burden.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Aman. We just have to be open to accepting that strength. - Lee

4:29 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Yoicks. I meant "Amen." Sometimes I type faster than my mind thinks.

4:31 PM  

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