Pam, my spouse, loves puzzles. This is one of her latest. I’m pretty sure she got this one to put together alongside Charlie and Mason, two of our grandchildren. As you can see, it is assembled enough now to tell it’s a picture of the ocean and its varied sea creatures.
I don’t have much patience with puzzles. It probably has something to do with the fact that I have a hard enough time putting the pieces of my own puzzling life together. Why would I wish to complicate things more by adding to it an actual puzzle?
Puzzle: Life Is a Puzzle, Isn’t It?
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days of your life are these: the day you were born; and, the day you figure out why.”
I don’t know that we ever fully figure out why – when we’re honest – but I do believe it is important to wrestle with this question – the question of my personal human existence – as in, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”
Far too many of us – and I would include myself in this – live as practical predestinarian people. A person who believes in “predestination” believes everything is God’s will.
Most people today are smart enough not to believe that anymore. But, in practicality, many of them still live as if they do – that’s what I mean by “practical predestinarians.”
Here’s how it typically goes today: If you were to ask most people, “Do you believe that everything in your life happens for a reason?” most would say, “Yes, of course.”
And, why do they believe that?
Isn’t it because it somewhat frees them from taking responsibility for anything? Including their own puzzling life?
Puzzle: Life’s a Puzzle, Isn’t It?
Of course. When you believe this, you can live as irresponsibly as you wish because you always have an alibi – so, you make a mess of your life but your default fall-back explanation is: “This mess must have some meaning. It must have happened for a reason.”
Really? That’s where you’re going with this?
Come now. Think about how irresponsible this is. You screw things up and, then, suggest, “It’s all for a reason.” That’s the ultimate alibi, it seems to me. The ultimate expression of irresponsibility.
No, the mess you and I make of our life…is our responsibility. The mess I make of my life – and I often do so – is my responsibility…sometimes my ignorance…but it isn’t some Divine design that makes it serve some loftier purpose which is really just to free me of the guilt I feel for goofy decisions I’ve made.
Who doesn’t like to believe and blame everything on “fate” or, worse, “God’s will” – which is, of course, what this is: a relinquishment of personal responsibility for my life and the choices I make, as well as the destiny I create, by just saying, “It must be for a reason.”
So, for me…and I write this today for you as well…put the pieces of this puzzle together. Here’s what I have come to believe. Here’s what I’ve pieced together…
1. I am responsible for my life, just as you are responsible for your life.
2. God, or fate, or this notion that “everything that happens, happens for a reason” is all just crock of phony beef stew…just ways of dismissing my (and your) responsibility.
3. Romans 8:28 may be the most misread verse in the Pauline writings.
When Saint Paul said, “All things work together for good…” he was not suggesting, “Everything happens for a reason.” He was suggesting instead that, inside all of life experiences – including the one you’re experiencing now – there is a Mystery at work. It doesn’t mean that “everything that happens is God’s will” or that “everything occurs for a reason.” It only means that, in a rather mysterious, even inexplicable way, God works with us, in us, and through us – so that, something redemptive, yes, even something good may come of all life experiences.
God is the ultimate garbage recycler – he can take the garbage dump of my life and fashion it into a grand banquet table.
That’s why he’s God. And, I’m not.