Good vs Bad, Part 2
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Last week I suggested we have an inaccurate understanding of good and bad. Specifically, we limit the full nature of what is good by condemning certain things as bad that are necessary stages for good to fully develop. I believe much of what we label as bad can more accurately be considered as incomplete or immature. Goodness, like life, is a process and a journey, never a static or permanent state of existence. It manifests and changes over time. Given time, attention, and an appropriate vision for maturity, most of what we consider bad can lead to something better, even something good. We equate goodness with perfection even though perfection is a poorly understood and constantly moving target. Our limited understanding of perfection is usually based on the unrealistic expectations of others, and it has no permanence. Our concepts of perfection are largely shaped by social media, airbrushed photographs, and movie scripts. Some of us consider living a life that is above criticism as perfection. Not only is living a life that is above criticism impossible, but it also requires us to ignore the soul-voice in our hearts that encourages us to rock any boat in need of rocking for the sake of goodness, which necessarily will draw criticism from those who cannot visualize the path to goodness.
Criticism is often a necessary prod to steer us toward the good. My 9th Grade English teacher, Mr. McKinney, was a stickler for grammatic perfection. There was a quiz every day and one’s grade was either an A or an F, nothing in between. We completed our work perfectly and got an A, or we made an error, no matter how minor, and got an F. My semester with Mr. McKinney began with two weeks of straight F’s. I had never gotten anything below a B in my life, but I was clearly flunking his class. I mustered the courage to visit Mr. McKinney one morning before school. He was a gruff, intimidating man in class, but he was pleasant and welcoming that morning. He patiently went through all my failed assignments until I could do them correctly. And then he changed each of my F’s to A’s and suddenly I had an A in 9th Grade English. Perfection! But there was a lot of bad and a lot of suffering leading to that perfection. And there was a lot of work involved in retaining that measure of perfection.
When I was a child, as is the case with all children, I did a lot of bad things. I did not share as I should have. I took toys away from others. I picked on my younger siblings. I cried when I did not get my way. I was not a bad person, however. I was a child and incapable of behaviors expected of adults, even though that is the standard we often hold children to. In that sense it would have been more accurate to say I was immature, although from a child development standpoint, I was normal. Only viewed through adult eyes and held to adult standards could I be considered bad or even immature. We make a similar mistake with many of our judgements of good and bad – we label something as bad when it is often something good in the making.
When something unfortunate happens to someone we are quick with unhelpful platitudes like, “Everything happens for a reason,” as if there were some God-ordained plan requiring our misery. While I do not believe that God wills unpleasant things to happen to us, God does work with us to help unpleasant things grow and evolve into something better and sometimes into something very good. I believe that from God’s view, everything is sacred and useful, even though some things have not blossomed into their sacred fullness yet. Our misguided attempts to eliminate everything bad from our lives is not only a fruitless endeavor, but it may also stunt the growth of much good that is trying to manifest.
Whenever we expect goodness, completion, and perfection from anything or anyone we set ourselves up for disappointment. Not everything works out the way we think it should (nor should it). Not everyone acts the way we think they should (nor should they). The central issues are not the things and people who fall short of our expectations. The problem is our belief that we always know what is good, complete, and perfect. Clearly, we do not. We can, however, watch in awe as God works in God’s way, through us and others, and in God’s time to bring about the perfect consummation of all things.
This is the 37th in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at email@example.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.