Sometimes life’s a turncoat. If I had a sling shot I’d just shoot life right between the eyes because I’m David and small and yet this big old Goliath-life barges around like a bully. I might have little value in this world but I’m a fighter, so someone please hand me a rock because my hands are shaking and I need to throw something. Patience is a virtue, the Bible says. It also says the meek inherit the earth and all kinds of other proverbs that are right and true but I’m so mad I could spit. Because the wicked win and the good folks lose and there is nothing I hate more than losing.
I’m not sure where I get the notion that fairness is a virtue, that we should all be getting halfzies and year-end bonuses and that our lives should always bear fruit. Sometimes we water and tend and earn and then life just rips the apple from our hands before it touches our lips. We lay down our life and praise Jesus and make tuna casseroles. We light candles and light up the room and nurse our babies in the thin lamp of morning. We make love and war and fight for what’s right but in the end life turns on you like a liar. Children are shot. Marriages crumble. Cancer invades.
So excuse me, patience, but you are weak and all I want to do is throw hard.
In Psalm 73, Asaph believed that God surely loved the people of Israel. But how come they were all sitting around starving and hurting while the wicked suffered no pain? Why are the bodies of the shooters and the sinners and the money launderers strong and well fed and immune from trouble when mommas are losing their babies to sick-headed teenagers with guns? Why are some women abused and raped and the men get to drink whiskey and disappear? For the wicked do not suffer as other men do. Asaph tells God, “Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer” as if God’s busy taking out the trash and can’t see that Donald Trump is eating caviar while the poor kid from Detroit has to sell crack to feed his own brothers. I could feel Asaph’s hand clasp around the rock.
Life is so not fair.
Asaph said that if he were to be honest and publicize his thoughts – if he were to admit that his own feet almost stumbled and he was envious of the wicked and that his “insides felt sharp pain” at this obvious disparity, that he would have betrayed his flock. And yet we have the benefit of reading his blog entry from thousands of years ago where he wrestled with the same questions we are facing about fairness and justice and why bad things happen to good people.
But then, Asaph entered into God’s temple, and “understood the destiny of the wicked.” It’s hard to explain this feeling, that God holds our right hand. That His presence is comforting and earthy pain isn’t forever. “But as for me,” Asaph says, “God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter.” And just like that the grip is loosened. The rock falls. And fairness becomes just a whistling in the wind, insignificant and transitory.
Fairness is never guaranteed. If you pray and give money to the poor and eat your vegetables, things should work out like magic and sparkles and you’d end up in castles with weddings. At least that’s what my daughter thinks. And yet it’s not. Everywhere I look I’m struck with the unfairness of things. People who did nothing wrong are struck with fate. Hit by death. Ravished with cancer. Eaten away by evil and left broken and lost with shattered hearts and tear-stained faces. It seems like the bad get the gold and the good are left with sheet metal.
And yet in the middle of the rubble, we rise. We step over piles of hurt and pain and heartache, and through our shrieks of loss we keep on moving. We drop our rocks and loosen our anger and instead cling to the hand of the Father. Mother Teresa once said that “we cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”
Life isn’t fair. Love anyway.