They say that God is in the details, but I’m not so sure. I’m beginning to notice a whole lot of details that seem left entirely up to you and I. The amount of influence we have in this world–for good or evil–is a sobering thought.
There’s no better story to screw with your sound theology than the book of Job. Job, whom God allows to be tested beyond all reason. Job, who in the end learns mainly that God can never be fully understood. Only fully trusted. His ways, we learn, are higher than our ways. Hovering above the details.
I’m not saying God doesn’t care about the details. He cares a great deal, I believe. How could He love us otherwise? But caring doesn’t necessitate control, or even intervention. Not always.
Love leaves the door open.
Job’s story was part of the Revised Common Lectionary this week. Another reading had Jesus talking about divorce and remarriage. And the simple faith of children. The type of faith that looks past the details toward the big picture.
When my kids entered school, they were friends with everybody. Details were nearly invisible. The older they get, the more the details divide. Now in junior high my son must navigate a minefield of faux-pas and social norms, only to be filed into a clique by a set of matching details. Filed through a door closed to outsiders.
In the Jesus story, religious leaders come at the Lord with detail questions. Questions about just when and how someone can ditch his wife and get away with it. Jesus doesn’t ignore the questions, but he draws back. Jesus pans up to a wide shot and asks us to see the larger picture of love. What is marriage for? What is it all about. Here, in and over all your details, what does love look like?
Here and now, in your details, what does love look like?
The Bible leaves so many specifics alone. The door is left open. Jesus doesn’t lock us in.
Open doors are dangerous, of course. Theives can get in. Small children can escape. We get things wrong. We make the wrong choice and suffer the consequences. Laws and rules are always easier. But the Holy Spirit is all about leaving doors open. All about high-level mystery that leaves you and I waiting for help with the details.
I once believed that the Bible answered everything. I don’t anymore. But where there are no answers–where the doors are left open–we are invited to find the way of love.
Here is the dangerous part. My way may not be your way. When it gets down to the details, God understands the myriad factors at play. With so many variables, how could all of our answers be the same?
I’m not saying there are no right answers. There are. And there are wrong answers. I believe God has those answers waiting. Prayer and patience will bring some answers. Some will be found like treasures along the path of love. Some will remain a mystery as long as they need to.
There is plenty that will remain a mystery.
So who can get divorced and who can’t? Maybe that’s more mysterious than we’d like to admit. Who gets to love who? Maybe that door is more open than closed. Should I eat meat or go vegetarian? Should I wear cheap clothing that was made unethically or spend money I could give to the poor on pricy, handmade goods? Should I be allowed to end my own life faced with the intense suffering of a terminal illness? Should I be allowed to terminate a pregnancy for a baby I am incapable of caring for?
Don’t misread me here. I’m not talking saying that every issue is awash in gray. I am saying that every issue must be awash in love, and that is different.
As we head towards an election, this move from details to doorways is important. Don’t vote for a chapter. Vote for a story.
There are truths and falsehoods, sure. A rock falls to the ground when I drop it. Every. Single. Time. Two sticks tossed into a pile with two other sticks make a pile of four sticks. Fire is not safe to eat. Water does not make you dry.
There are darkest blacks and whitest whites and contrast between. But also between are open doors. Less-blacks and less-whites. Grays and gradiations and Grace.
There is the constant need for communion with the Spirit who waits to lead, each on her path. The need for him to listen, intent always on deciphering the next step. There is the need for all God’s children to trust one another’s ability to hear His voice, and follow.
Open doors are scary. They leave so many options on the table. Many we love may leave. Many we don’t like may enter. But I begin to believe the Good Lord holds the door wide open.
And wider still.
Wide enough that Love can enter in.