Of anyone in my family, I have probably been the most abused. More than likely, I am also the most functional, the most clear-headed, the most able to engage in supportive relationships, and the most able find life most rewarding.
I am more fortunate than any of them.
And yet I have suffered. I have suffered terribly–probably more than all of them put together.
I have suffered not only because of what all of them did to me, but because I have the greatest capacity for suffering. I retained more of my humanity, and can therefore feel my own pain.
In a sense, they suffer without any witness. No one sees their pain—not even themselves. I am my own witness. I am with myself and for myself in a way they can never be to themselves, and so they are alone and lonely in the most terrible and frightening way.
I can hear myself. I can speak about my suffering so that others can hear me. Despite my internal fragmentation, I am whole in a way they never will be.
I can also care about others. I am not so consumed by my own overwhelming needs and intense desires that the rest of the world exists for me only either an obstacle or as a source of gain.
Consequently, I have both myself and other people. My family members are so alone they don’t even have themselves
All I can say is how grateful I am. I am grateful to have been born with the capacity to become the person I am. If I had to grow up in the way that I did, I am infinitely appreciative to have been given the qualities that would allow me to remain human through all of it.
But that also raises some questions. Quite a few, in fact.
Because they weren’t so lucky. You can talk about grace if you want to. I am alive and standing only through the grace of God. But where was God’s grace when they needed it? Nowhere. There was no grace left over for them.
You can also say they made choices. Indeed, they did. But the path they went down in order to become the people they are today began when they were too young to know what the consequences of their choices would be. I blame them for those choices. But not entirely.
Through his Forgiveness Project, Bishop Tutu relates the story of ? who, while being tortured in prison, began to think to himself, “These are God’s children, and yet they are behaving like animals.”
My father, who tortured me in more ways than I can bear to remember, is also a child of God. Even animals won’t do what he did.
It’s hard to wrap for me head around that. If God is our Father, how did he ever create a little boy that could become the man my father was?
If you believe in the Devil, then you have it easy. The Devil led him astray. But I have a hard time with the Devil as a construct. God is supposed to be greater than Satan. Good should triumph over evil. Good only sometimes does. Why?
Sometimes, God seems to let down the side. Why?
I can’t think of a reason, and so I can’t blame things on the Devil. The Devil doesn’t make sense to me. I need some other answer to this conundrum, and that involves today’s heresy.
Which is this: I don’t believe God is perfect.
I don’t think there is evil at work in the world so much as there are terrible accidents. Accidents where we all look around and think, “Crap, why didn’t we see that coming?”
Accidents like my father, a little boy born to neglectful, incompetent, and sometimes psychotic parents who himself lacked both the internal and external resources to cope and consequently failed to develop either empathy or conscience–instead developing a monstrous sense of self-importance.
The Bible tells us that we were created in God’s image. That’s not true. Instead, we created God in our image, or at least according to our own preferred imagings.
We prefer perfection. We are not perfect, but we busy ourselves most days trying to create it. Otherwise why we would we be on the fifth Iphone? Why would Windows release first Windows 8 and, almost immediately following, 8.1? We want perfection. And just as we want a perfect phone, we want a perfect God.
But God is not perfect. If you want proof, look around. His Creation is not perfect. It is amazing and mysterious and sometimes jaw-droppingly beautiful. But everything in it is flawed. People are flawed, flowers are flawed, dogs are flawed. If God were so perfect why would the whole of his Creation be imperfect?
The planet is teeming with life. We have done our best to destroy it, but so far there is simply too much of it for us to kill off. In the Amazon alone, there are so many species that we are driving them to extinction faster than we can discover them.
If you look around, what you can see clearly for yourself is that God loves to create. He loves life in all its wonder and splendour and diversity. He is a creative God, a beautiful God who can fill us with wonder and awe. But He is not perfect, and neither are we.
Which means that sometimes there are accidents–accidents like my father.
Entertaining the idea of an imperfect God—in the face of all the theology to the contrary—may disturb you, but it comforts me. It’s the only way I can make any sense out of my life.
A perfect God could only spell a cruel god—at best, an indifferent God. Even there, I see a problem. How can a cruel God create so many kind human beings? Again, I can’t make any sense out of that.
But I can live with a flawed God who is kind.
A flawed God also means that I can forgive Him for giving me the childhood I had. It means I can forgive my father. It means I can live with the life I have led and with the world I live in.
That’s today’s heresy. Someone who has seen the worst of what human beings can do to one another must not only forgive the perpetrators, but the God who made people capable of doing such terrible harm.
This is the only way I can.