The Drill Down Award – towards Root Cause

First of all, I need to thank God for the rich blessings in my life.  I am SO grateful to work for a company that can send me to Florida in the dead of winter AND grateful that Leah can meet me here as she has now (twice!).  Really, I never want to take that for granted; it’s just great and it’s from God, like all good things.

I try to pass blessings along; truly I almost think that’s my duty, but it’s one that I do with joy.

One way I do that is to give an award I call “The Drill Down Award”.  It’s a hand drill (which are getting hard to find) that I bestow upon engineers who have doggedly persisted in finding the hardest problems in our software.  These issues drag on for months (one of the pre-requisites for a “Drill Down” problem) with little or no additional evidence.  Slowly, the engineers make progress until that amazing breakthrough happens.  We have found that if you don’t give up, that it will happen.

We call the final victory in this resolution “finding the root cause”.

And the award is given for NOT GIVING UP.  I buy the drills at personal expense; the award is my idea but it has found its way into people’s annual reviews and .. maybe their resumes.

Now the spiritual part.

I don’t know that anyone ever told me the amount of persistent work it would be to get through my gunk in walking with God.  I guess I was taught a bunch of quick fix theology at the outset. Now, I may have more stuff to work through than most, but somehow I don’t think any of us in Christ, if we’re honest, escapes the conviction of passages like David’s here:

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

I usually find a BUNCH of anxious thoughts and offensive ways when I pray like this.  But I have learned to not let that discourage or condemn me.  No, I go for the Drill Down Award.  I realize this this can be hard work:

 Philippians 2:13-14 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

.. I mean, long, drawn-out work.  But it’s worth it; I daresay I’M worth it.  And so are you.

Towards that end, I am prayerfully starting a Pure Desire group at our church.  My own past, coupled with the shared lives of some men I know, have displayed again the rich rewards of persistent.  Yes, it deals with a specific problem and one that is either ignored as not  a problem or shamed as one not fit for discussion.

The various things people do to medicate themselves from their pain are legend. And those two responses are common across all addictive coping behavior.  Some eat.  Some do drugs. Some get angry a lot.

I encourage people to call their addictions what they are.  And I encourage people to work towards root cause.  I don’t know about you, but I want to go for the Drill Down Award.

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The ogre God and the genie God – the problem of evil allowed

There are some common, not-so-new thoughts about God that have had a renaissance in recent days.  Perhaps they are more codified than ever given the nature of the atrocity at Sandy Hook.  The arguments that the victims had it coming are just not viable there.  I never thought they were viable concerning 9/11, but there were some loud voices who thought otherwise.

As I’ve read commentary and a bit of the blogosphere, the conclusions of the atheist/agnostic reasoners fall into two camps – a) those who say that God exists and that God is indescribably evil and b) those who say God does not exist.  And the argument is summed up in this “If God exists, how could s/he allow this kind of evil?” (allow the gender bender please, I’m trying to describe the arguments of unbelief in all their confusion).  For someone without a faith system, without any developed theology, this question begs, no, it screams to be answered.  It is of note that these people only want to hear from God when s/he could intervene in such tragedies, but such are their lives.

But, believer, how would you answer the question?

Here’s how I would answer it:

Human beings are given free will.  There are arguments for predestination; I’ll push them aside for a different day.

Given choice, what do people choose?  The answer is: all manner of thought, speech and activity – they choose to do stuff.  And that stuff runs the gamut from lofty altruism through rank selfishness through unmistakable evil.  If God were to intervene somewhere along that gamut, where would it be?  I’m sure most reasoners would say somewhere that includes stopping Adam Lanza from shooting his mom, then spraying first graders with bullets.  But if you say that God must stop evil, then you must define the evil that will be stopped.  And you can’t without becoming God.

See, to unmask the argument is to realize that people who won’t believe in a God who allows evil (their definition) want be God or at least to control God.  They want to prescript God’s actions.  They don’t want a God, they want a genie, an omnipotent vassal who answers (only) to them.  They can only accept an ogre or a genie.  A God who watches and weeps is either impotent or uncaring.

Or Almighty.

Evil festering and growing and destroying does not disprove the existence of God, it proves the existence of another being.  Yeah .. the devil.  That guy.  The twisted progression of emotional turmoil, sick thought and the action produced is constantly happening all around us, and if we’re honest, within us.  While we would cringe at doing anything like Mr. Lanza did, we’d slowly allow the destruction of our families through infidelity and divorce.  This is not to condemn anyone, just to show that the problem is not out there – it’s in us.

One of the attributes of the God of the Bible is that He is long-suffering.  He puts up with all kinds of evil for the eventuality of people coming to their senses and seeking good instead.  And He is good’s source; it’s His invention.

This does nothing to diminish the horror of what happened on 14 December 2012, but it is an offer of a view of the divine that is mature and complete, not what many reasoning-only people want.

And the related question of  “Where was God?” is answered simply: God was right there.  It is another aspect of the reasoning tribe’s world-view that death is the end of all things.  Of God is eternal and our lives are also eternal and they carry on after these bodies die, then the children of Sandy Hook went right into the arms of heaven.  It was worse for the bereaved, but comfort and peace will be theirs over time, just the way grief works.

We will all die.  Some will be murdered.  Some will die in combat.  Some, only after losing their minds to dementia or their bodies to wasting diseases.  Our aversion to death is the proclamation of eternity, we should learn to listen to it; it might help us clean up our act.

Bottom line: God allows evil so that evil might be redeemed and turned to good.  I’m enjoying that process and invite others along.