I started my conversation today with Rabbi Yehoshua by giving him all the reasons why God doesn’t seem all that good. Frustrated and emotional I spewed all these descriptions that were in contradiction to a good person, the things that don’t coalesce with who he is made out to be. He is irrational, angry, judgmental, brutal, unfair, unkind, inconsistent, convincible and clearly not all knowing.
I exploded and then sat there and waited for a response, my disrespectful rantings hanging in the air. I expected answers from him, I expected defenses, I expected explanation and theological concepts of which he gave me very few. What he gave me was empathy. I wanted him to be the referee, to tell me where God was right and where I was wrong and end the match. God – infinity, Brooke – zero. I wanted him to step in for me, to wrestle for me, and he stood aside and nodded his head…carry on.
“I think you need to accept that God can be both good and wrathful at the same time,” he said. It’s a basic concept, the ability to recognize complexity in persons, in thinking, in facets of a behavior that have opposing elements yet still in concordance. Justice and grace together, not always in opposition, I get that. But I guess I don’t get it, I read the old testament and God doesn’t seem all that good, I can’t find where the compassion outweighs the wrath. Where the grace outweighs the justice.
I often feel angry about this, because I feel like I have been slighted by everyone, they told me who God was and gave me a very nice and acceptable description full of fuzzy kindness, overflowing grace, boyfriend love, and so much concern for me I'm bordering narcissism. When I started really looking into it, it all seemed a fraud because it turned out He wasn’t a very nice Deity in history, or if He was I had to dig to find it. I keep wanting someone to fix this conundrum and when Rabbi Yehoshua essentially told me to calm down and keep wrestling, I did, and I finally took a deep breath.
For some of us the whistle is never blown and our wrestling match with God and belief carries on and that’s our lives. We can choose to wrestle in a state of anxiety or wrestle in a state of serenity, and then choose to do something with our lives in the meantime.
If I can come to a place where I can realize that complete understanding is not the goal but the process is the goal, then maybe I’ll have some peace in the unknown. I’ll stop looking for complete lack of doubt as the greatest sign of health, but instead see movement and progress towards understanding as an achievement in itself. Rabbi Yehoshua encouraged me to find a place of serenity that I can come back to when a day is confusing and God seems unclear, at the baseline something I can believe in and find peace in.
I want my baseline to believe that God is there and that God is good and if everything else doesn’t make sense I can find peace in that. Today, I believe God is there and His goodness is very confusing, and there’s a little peace in that. So the goal - I can’t give up, and I can’t become obsessed or depressed over the unknown, I just have to keep moving forward and then sometimes backwards and then forward again because that’s life and that’s faith and that’s a match.