So several years ago I was dealing with the end of a short and somewhat tumultuous marriage. We were both miserable, some crazy stuff happened that I’m not entirely proud of, and we got a divorce.
I had been mourning the end of it for quite some time before it actually happened so when it did I felt pretty prepared for it. Crying was minimal, soul-searching at the maximum, and I settled into a kind of strange peace about the whole situation. I felt like I was doing the right thing after being stuck in the wrong thing for years.
But I live in The South, and divorce is still kind of one of those things people aren’t used to happening yet, particularly to young twenty-somethings who seem to have it all going for them. I really wanted things to work out so I could have the life I always dreamed I would, but it was definitely not happening and if I wanted any chance at happiness then stuff had to change.
That’s hard to explain to someone on the outside of the situation, t0 random acquaintances in my life who assumed that this was literally the worst thing that ever happened to me (it wasn’t) or that I was going through some kind of mental breakdown (already happened) about it and that I needed to hear comforting words.
Often those words came out as, “Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason.” And it took a lot for me to just smile and say thank you, because that’s what my momma taught me to do. These words were not comforting to me and I had come to that conclusion long before the divorce happened.
Now, let me say that these words ARE in fact comforting to a large majority of people. At one point in my life they were comforting to me. But my views have changed, my ideas about why things happen in my life have changed, and my relationship with God has changed.
See, we are created in God’s image. I believe that Christ dwells within us, that inside all of us is some element of the divine. (Whether you call it Christ or not is up to you, that’s what I choose to name it.) It is natural for us to want to create order out of chaos, as God did at the beginning, so when our lives spiral out of control or things happen we can’t make sense of, we believe that God must know because we don’t. And, well, that’s true, BUT–we have choices, too. We are given free will, and I believe that because of that we are co-creators of our lives. To deny that is to deny our own redemption, our own divinity that lies somewhere in our souls next to our humanity.
This is why I’ll never be a Calvinist, y’all.
I don’t believe that my life has been completely planned out from the moment of my conception. I do believe that there’s an intended direction for my life, towards the Kingdom, but God and I develop that together. We co-create my life, and when I make choices that lead me in a direction away from its intended one, God pulls me back in.
I think about the story of Joseph, how his brothers threw him in a well and basically left him there to die, then decided that instead of killing him they would make a buck by selling him into slavery. Years later after he is reunited with them (and an entire people is saved from famine because of the position Joseph earned while in captivity), he says to his brothers, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” (Genesis 50:20)
I interpret this scripture to say that God took a bad situation and made something good out of it. And God still does that, He still takes crazy bad situations and redeems them. He takes chaos and turns it toward the Kingdom.
But God doesn’t create those bad situations, we do. And we do it by our choices. You know, the ones that take us a step away from God rather than a step closer. I made some not awesome choices that led me into a bad situation but God took it and redeemed it and here I am today, a functioning well-rounded young lady in a happy healthy relationship and lots of great things on the horizon. Did those things that came before it “happen for a reason?” Sure, but that phrase implies uncertainty, it denies my own role in creation, and … I don’t like it.
The way I see it, I was blessed with the free will to choose God. And I do; I try to live my life the way Christ taught me to, the way it was modeled for me in radical love and compassion. Together God and I write the story of my life (sometimes God has to forcibly take the pen from my hand), but together I believe we are writing a beautiful story. It’s full of my own bad choices and crappy things happening because of the bad choices of other people, but it’s also full of love and beauty and redemption.
But my story isn’t a book unto itself; no, my story is mixed with countless other stories in a giant book that God and other people are writing in, too. We’re all co-creators with God, writing the story of God’s Kingdom.
I love this portion of the Catholic church’s catechism that talks about human beings as co-creators:
306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.
307 To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of “subduing” the earth and having dominion over it.168 God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers and their sufferings.169 They then fully become “God’s fellow workers” and co-workers for his kingdom.170
308 The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”171 Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for “without a Creator the creature vanishes.”172 Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace. (from here.)
Own your role as co-creator. Live into your own divinity. Everything happens for a reason—BUT, it’s up to you and God to come up with that reason, and may it take you one step closer to the Kingdom of God. Amen.
(P.S. I highly recommend googling “creation stained glass window” because there are some truly gorgeous ones out there.)