I really didn’t like the opera, Tristan und Isolde. There are a lot of reasons I could give you, but the one I was reminded of tonight at small group is the unresolved dissonance. A brilliant composition by Wagner, the music of the four hour opera does not resolve until the final note. This, of course, really makes the listener happy that the opera is finally finished. Throughout the opera (and the intermissions), one could feel the tension of the dissonance – even for someone with an untrained ear. This has always bothered me. Even in high school a friend could really annoy me by playing a chord progression and walking away from the piano before resolving the chord. I do not like dissonance.
During small group today, our video and discussion was on Seeking Justice and Reconciliation. The speakers shared of their experiences with injustice throughout the world – sex trafficking, slavery (in our own country!), wars, etc. The people who suffer from this injustice are not in need of simply food, water, and shelter – they need an advocate, a voice. They need someone who will give power to the powerless. Gary Haugen (author of Just Courage) defines injustice as “abusing power by taking from others the good things that God intended for them, namely, their life, liberty, dignity, or the fruits of their love or their labor.” Injustice happens far too often in our world today. Why have I not realized this? Why has this not impacted me? Last week someone in the video asked the question: “What is wrong with my faith that this does not touch me?” This week, as I asked myself this question, God revealed to me the answer.
We say that God is good and we know this to be true. Though we often struggle with this concept, we need this to be true. Think of this for a moment – what if God is not good? Look up from your computer and for a split second, imagine that God was not good. What does that do for your heart? Mine was just devastated for that split second. If God is not good, the center does not hold (to quote Yeats). If God is not good, if this is not true, what is there? Now, God IS good. I know this to be true and I rest in this fact and it is in this truth where I find peace.
But I also like control. I like black and white. I like things to make sense and I like resolved chord progressions. When I look at injustice, when I look at hunger, famine, war, slavery, and sex trafficking, when I hear of murder, rape, orphans, and AIDS – I’m overwhelmed. But only to a certain point. I’m overwhelmed and then I walk away. It’s not in my back yard. It does not directly affect me. But do you know what the truth of the matter is? If I really LOOKED at these issues, if I really thought about what it is like to BE there and to be affected by this – I would have to face the fact that this is REAL and this doesn’t make sense with my understanding of God’s goodness. The reality appears to be in direct contrast to what I know to be true. And I can’t turn my back on the pain in this world to make my truth hold true. If that’s what I’m doing, what kind of truth is that? It’s a truth I’m trying to control, a truth I’m trying to understand. I do this so much with God. Just recently, as I’ve been willing to step outside of my black and white and willing to risk losing control – THIS is when God has been really becoming real to me. I’ve tried desperately for so long for Him to “make sense” and I’ve worked too hard to avoid being helpless and to stay in control. That’s me trying to play God. And that is sin.
As a counselor, I’ve heard stories and I’ve sat with people in some pretty deep pain and I’ve experienced some deep pain myself; though I see now that I’ve only gone so far. I’ve wrestled with the concept of God’s goodness on an individual level and have rested in the fact (if ever so surface it may have beeen) that He is sovereign and does work all things out for His glory. And this, though taken with faith, holds. But what about the woman who is lying beneath the tree, too frail to move, and too sick for others to want to go near her – what about God’s goodness to her? What would I say to her as she nears her death – without food, shelter, or friends? What about the teenage girl who sells her body for 25 cents a night just so she can afford to feed her younger brothers and sisters? How would I explain to her that God is good and that He loves her? What about the 17 thousand slaves that are brought into OUR COUNTRY every single year?
And what about the fact that I don’t want to even list anymore because this is so overwhelming to me?! The question I asked myself tonight is this – “How do we LIVE, knowing all of this?” Which led me to ask, “Why have I lived so long without knowing this?” Because I didn’t want to know. Because seeing global injustice and global poverty makes me question God’s goodness. The reality and the truth find themselves in an unresolved dissonance.
And I don’t like dissonance. So I turn off the music. I leave the room. I walk away.
That’s not how God has called me to live. We live in a world of dissonance – this is called SIN. This is the tension of the fallen world in which we live. BUT – and this is what was explained on our video tonight – Christ died on the cross to resolve this dissonance. Christ died on the cross so that we could have a relationship with our Creator. And what about the dying woman, the young woman, the starving child? “Now we get to be a part of the great resolution work of Jesus.” We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are called to help bring justice to the nations. We are commanded to “live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God” (Micah 6:8).
What does this mean? How do I live now? I’m not exactly sure. What I do know is this: I need to live in the dissonance. I can’t turn off the music, I can’t leave the room, and I can’t walk away. I need to live with faith and trust that God is good, even though there is pain and injustice all over the world. I need to trust in God’s truth rather than my own narrow minded version and I need to trust Him beyond my understanding. This can only happen by His work in my heart. I am willing. I am willing to experience that which I can’t control.