What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 18-20
One of the greatest spiritual challenges I believe we face as human beings is coming to terms with the fact that we are never going to understand why things "work" the way they do.
Rather than face this reality, many folks feel compelled to create reasons for why things happen the way they do. And if they can't arrive at a satisfactory explanation themselves, they often use the standard: "Well, it's a part of God's plan and we can't question it."
Take today's story from Numbers, for example. The author(s) of today's passage were faced with a specific historical circumstance: Moses and Aaron – the individuals who led the Israelites out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land – failed to live long enough to get to the Promised Land themselves. This reality was a little embarrassing to live with. So in communicating their story, they identify the reason why Moses and Aaron failed to make it to the Promised Land. It was because of Moses and Aaron's insolence at Meribah.
For years I wrestled with the fairness of this situation. I couldn't understand why these two faithful men – both of whom had committed FAR larger screw ups before (i.e. Aaron participation in the creation of the Golden Calf and Moses' destruction of the first set of the Ten Commandments) – were being penalized in such a HUGE way for one simply act of indiscretion.
When I was younger I even worried that if God punished these men so harshly for their understandable mistake that I was REALLY in for it given my own propensity toward much bigger glitches (at least they seemed much bigger in my mind since I made them).
Eventually, I came to realize that a huge part of our human experience consists in trying to make sense out of the incomprehensible. We have to create, for instance, a reason why a young neighbor boy was killed in a traffic accident, or why our aunt was stricken with Alzheimer's, or why our spouse can find a job for the life of him/her!
While the creation of such answers can help in the short term, I've found that over longer periods of time those answers can eat away at our soul. They can contribute to a simmering rage that eventually gets aimed in God's direction – the One whom we are often told is "responsible" for all that happens.
As you negotiate the series of challenges before you today, pay attention to the interpretive lens you put on. When you find a part of yourself trying to make sense out of some incomprehensible occurrence, try something new. Instead of asking the question "Why did God allow this to happen?" instead ask yourself, "Where is God in the midst of this?" That shift in perception might take your relationship with God to new places today.
Til next time …