Sunday, June 6, 2010

Avoid Rain: Be Good?

It has taken me 33 years to learn that pain in life is a given. And even still, I have to constantly relearn it as I find myself trying to escape from anything painful or disappointing. I blame Disney, really. I think Disney movies set us up for disappointment (with the exception of The Journey of Natty Gann and The Fox and the Hound which are unnecessarily painful). We’re left to believe that if Walt Disney were in charge of the world, it would be a much happier place. But we’ve got this God guy in charge who seems to value pain as much as pleasure (if not more).

Still, I got the idea from the God-followers that I could actually avoid pain by following a simple formula: if you keep from being human, you can keep from being hurt. In other words, rain only falls on the broken so don’t be broken. Keep it all together and pain won’t knock at your door. Or, you reap what you sow, so be a good girl.

Maybe there’s some truth there (like 2%), but it sets us up with a Disney-esque purpose in life: be good, avoid pain, live happily ever after. And it contradicts the words of Christ, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” and, of course, Bono’s paraphrase, “Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel, luckily.”

The consequence of this formula, I think, is that at some point in life (I am a slow learner) we realize that very often life sucks whether we’re good or bad, and we feel we’ve been hoodwinked by the God-followers who promised that everything would work out fine. We think God didn’t hold up his part of the bargain—he must not be good like Walt Disney.

I admit, I’m disappointed with God. I didn’t get the life I wanted. And I was good. The formula failed me. So, now I keep trying to reprogram from Walt-philosophy to a philosophy that allows for my humanity and the complexity of a life with pain and pleasure and brokenness.

Blaise Pascal said, "Two things contribute to our sanctification. Pains and pleasures." Could it be that happiness and pain-avoidance are not the purpose of life? Maybe the journey of sanctification—the journey of knowing our true selves by knowing the true God—is the point. Maybe I can’t protect myself from pain (even by being good) and maybe I’m not supposed to.

"The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed." Frederick Buechner