Last fall Kellie and I had close friends come visit us up here in the North Carolina mountains, friends we’ve known for 30 years. In the course of conversation I interjected the oft-used expression “It’s all good,” which my friend immediately and good-naturedly took me to task on.
“It’s not all good, you know! I hate it when people say that because there is so much tragedy and heartbreak in the world that is decidedly not-good. There really is evil out there, and I think we can sometimes be too glib with that phrase.” So of course I took every opportunity over the rest of the weekend to pull her chain by using the phrase as often as possible. We have that kind of relationship.
But it got me thinking. My friend’s point about the not-good is incontrovertible, and we don’t have to look far to find the evidence. And it’s all too easy to toss around trite platitudes, especially if they seem hip in the moment. But the question remained for me: Is there an overarching Goodness that is capable of holding and surmounting all the Not-Goodness in the world?
To clarify, I’m not asking if there is a God…or if that God is ultimately good. I have already answered those questions for myself. It’s a bit more than that. It’s more like, Can Goodness so infuse every Badness I experience in my journey to the extent that the Badness is actually transformed into Goodness itself? Can Evil be swallowed up by Good so completely that there is not even a remnant left of what was once Evil? And if so, can it happen in this world…or merely in the next?
Let me offer something I believe at this point. Bold or brash, you can decide: There is nothing in the next world that is not already present in this world in degree…and I tend to think there is a whole lot more of that next world (what we call heaven or the kingdom of God) available to us in this world than we generally realize.
Back to my question, Paul was either prescient or delusional when he made the famous statement “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Is Paul overreaching here? Is he saying that bad experiences get swallowed up, digested, and converted into good things all the time? Perhaps we could reframe his qualifiers this way: When you are living IN love, THROUGH love, and FOR love, then yes—every disappointment, every devastating loss, every betrayal, every physical or emotional injury, every point of sorrow or suffering without exception is an avenue—transformed by Love—for receiving and sharing what is good, whole, and healing. Pain is a portal to Love.
Since none of us have been tested by the full spectrum of tragedy, the only way to hold this conviction is with faith. Faith and our own small stories of weeping-in-the-night being turned to joy-in-the-morning.
How do you hold this paradox? What can you receive, what do you resist? What’s God’s invitation to you today for this divine alchemy?
For this blog I’d like to introduce you to a fantastic resource I’ve been using for years. It’s a daily audio recording about 10 minutes in length that is loosely based on the Lectio Divina meditation practice of the ancients. It’s called Pray As You Go. You can incorporate this into your morning devotional time, listen on your drive to work, on a lunch break, or as I do, the last thing every night before I go to sleep. (The British accent makes it all the better.)
Held in Love, it’s all good.