Life is Good

Kind of disappointed on a couple of fronts, yet thankful that in spite of disappointments there is always a ray of sun; and that even a single ray of light is so radiant, beautiful and stronger than any little rain clouds that overshadowed our path. In the end things are always good. I am always so encouraged to see how things work out & that the things that discouraged us were really the inconsequential things; the areas we had victories in were the important ones and far outweigh the others. Life is good.

Here is our ray of sun, and she’s beautiful.

Lord of Terrible Aspect

Love can forbear, and Love can forgive… but Love can never be
reconciled to an unlovely object… He can never therefore be
reconciled to your sin, because sin itself is incapable of being
altered; but He may be reconciled to your person, because that may
be restored.

Traherne.
Centuries of Meditation, II, 30.

By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively
His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this
context, most of us mean kindness – the desire to see others than
the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy.
What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything
we happened to like doing, “What does it matter so long as they are
contented?” We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a
grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say,
“liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for
the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of
each day, “a good time was had by all”. Not many people, I admit,
would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a
conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do
not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a
universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is
abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe,
nevertheless; that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of
love needs correction.

I might, indeed, have learned, even from the poets, that Love is
something more stern and splendid than mere kindness: that even
the love between the sexes is, as in Dante, “a lord of terrible aspect”.
There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not
coterminous, and when kindness (in the sense given above) is
separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain
fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like
contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its
object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is
constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer.
Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes
good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture
points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who
are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people
whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any
terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting
and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in
contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by
definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears,
from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and
condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has
paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest,
most tragic, most memorable sense.

The relation between Creator and creature is, of course, unique,
and cannot be paralleled by any relations between one creature and
another. God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any
other being. He is further from us because the sheer difference
between that which has Its principle of being in Itself and that to
which being is communicated, is one compared with which the
difference between an archangel and a worm is quite insignificant.
He makes, we are made: He is original, we derivative. But at the
same time, and for the same reason, the intimacy between God and
even the meanest creature is closer than any that creatures can
attain with one another. Our life is, at every moment, supplied by
Him: our tiny, miraculous power of free will only operates on bodies
which His continual energy keeps in existence – our very power to
think is His power communicated to us. Such a unique relation can
be apprehended only by analogies: from the various types of love
known among creatures we reach an inadequate, but useful,
conception of God’s love for man.

The lowest type, and one which is “love” at all only by an
extension of the word, is that which an artist feels for an artefact.
God’s relation to man is pictured thus in Jeremiah’s vision of the
potter and the clay, or when St. Peter speaks of the whole Church
as a building on which God is at work, and of the individual
members as stones. The limitation of such an analogy is, of course,
that in the symbol the patient is not sentient, and that certain
questions of justice and mercy which arise when the “stones” are
really “living” therefore remain unrepresented. But it is an
important analogy so far as it goes. We are, not metaphorically but
in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making,
and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it
has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have
called the “intolerable compliment”. Over a sketch made idly to
amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be
content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be.
But over the great picture of his life – the work which he loves,
though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman
or a mother a child – he will take endless trouble – and would,
doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were
sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed
and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it
were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute.
In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed
for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are
wishing not for more love but for less.
Another type is the love of a man for a beast – a relation
constantly used in Scripture to symbolise the relation between God
and men; “we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”. This is
in some ways a better analogy than the preceding, because the
inferior party is sentient, and yet unmistakably inferior: but it is
less good in so far as man has not made the beast and does not
fully understand it. Its great merit lies in the fact that the
association of (say) man and dog is primarily for the man’s sake: he
tames the dog primarily that he may love it, not that it may love
him, and that it may serve him, not that he may serve it. Yet at the
same time, the dog’s interests are not sacrificed to the man’s. The
one end (that he may love it) cannot be fully attained unless it also,
in its fashion, loves him, nor can it serve him unless he, in a
different fashion, serves it. Now just because the dog is by human
standards one of the “best” of irrational creatures, and a proper
object for a man to love – of course, with that degree and kind of
love which is proper to such an object, and not with silly
anthropomorphic exaggerations – man interferes with the dog and
makes it more lovable than it was in mere nature. In its state of
nature it has a smell, and habits which frustrate man’s love: he
washes it, house-trains it, teaches it not to steal; and is so enabled
to love it completely. To the puppy the whole proceeding would
seem, if it were a theologian, to cast grave doubts on the “goodness”
of man: but the full-grown and full-trained dog, larger, healthier,
and longer-lived than the wild dog, and admitted, as it were by
Grace, to a whole world of affections, loyalties, interests, and
comforts entirely beyond its animal destiny, would have no such
doubts. It will be noted that the man (I am speaking throughout of
the good man) takes all these pains with the dog, and gives all these
pains to the dog, only because it is an animal high in the scale –
because it is so nearly lovable that it is worth his while to make it
fully lovable. He does not house-train the earwig or give baths to
centipedes. We may wish, indeed, that we were of so little account
to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses – that He
would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our
natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more Love, but
for less.

Another type is the love of a man for a beast – a relation
constantly used in Scripture to symbolise the relation between God
and men; “we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”. This is
in some ways a better analogy than the preceding, because the
inferior party is sentient, and yet unmistakably inferior: but it is
less good in so far as man has not made the beast and does not
fully understand it. Its great merit lies in the fact that the
association of (say) man and dog is primarily for the man’s sake: he
tames the dog primarily that he may love it, not that it may love
him, and that it may serve him, not that he may serve it. Yet at the
same time, the dog’s interests are not sacrificed to the man’s. The
one end (that he may love it) cannot be fully attained unless it also,
in its fashion, loves him, nor can it serve him unless he, in a
different fashion, serves it. Now just because the dog is by human
standards one of the “best” of irrational creatures, and a proper
object for a man to love – of course, with that degree and kind of
love which is proper to such an object, and not with silly
anthropomorphic exaggerations – man interferes with the dog and
makes it more lovable than it was in mere nature. In its state of
nature it has a smell, and habits which frustrate man’s love: he
washes it, house-trains it, teaches it not to steal; and is so enabled
to love it completely. To the puppy the whole proceeding would
seem, if it were a theologian, to cast grave doubts on the “goodness”
of man: but the full-grown and full-trained dog, larger, healthier,
and longer-lived than the wild dog, and admitted, as it were by
Grace, to a whole world of affections, loyalties, interests, and
comforts entirely beyond its animal destiny, would have no such
doubts. It will be noted that the man (I am speaking throughout of
the good man) takes all these pains with the dog, and gives all these
pains to the dog, only because it is an animal high in the scale –
because it is so nearly lovable that it is worth his while to make it
fully lovable. He does not house-train the earwig or give baths to
centipedes. We may wish, indeed, that we were of so little account
to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses – that He
would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our
natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more Love, but
for less.

A nobler analogy, sanctioned by the constant tenor of Our Lord’s
teaching, is that between God’s love for man and a father’s love for
a son. Whenever this is used, however (that is, whenever we pray
the Lord’s Prayer), it must be remembered that the Saviour used it
in a time and place where paternal authority stood much higher
than it does in modern England. A father half apologetic for having
brought his son into the world, afraid to restrain him lest he should
create inhibitions or even to instruct him lest he should interfere
with his independence of mind, is a most misleading symbol of the
Divine Fatherhood. I am not here discussing whether the authority
of fathers, in its ancient extent, was a good thing or a bad thing: I
am only explaining what the conception of Fatherhood would have
meant to Our Lord’s first hearers, and indeed to their successors for
many centuries. And it will become even plainer if we consider how
Our Lord (though, in our belief, one with His Father and co-eternal
with Him as no earthly son is with an earthly father) regards His
own Sonship, surrendering His will wholly to the paternal will and
not even allowing Himself to be called “good” because Good is the
name of the Father. Love between father and son, in this symbol,
means essentially authoritative love on the one side, and obedient
love on the other. The father uses his authority to make the son
into the sort of human being he, rightly, and in his superior
wisdom, wants him to be. Even in our own days, though a man
might say, he could mean nothing by saying, “I love my son but
don’t care how great a blackguard he is provided he has a good
time.”

Finally we come to an analogy full of danger, and of much more
limited application, which happens, nevertheless, to be the most
useful for our special purpose at the moment – I mean, the analogy
between God’s love for man and a man’s love for a woman. It is
freely used in Scripture. Israel is a false wife, but Her heavenly
Husband cannot forget the happier days; “I remember thee, the
kindness of thy youth, the love of thy espousals, when thou wentest
after Me in the wilderness.” Israel is the pauper bride the waif
whom Her lover found abandoned by the wayside, and clothed and
adorned and made lovely and yet she betrayed Him. “Adulteresses”
St. James calls us, because we turn aside to the “friendship of the
world”, while God “Jealously longs for the spirit He has implanted in
us” The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no
spot or wrinkle is endurable. For the truth which this analogy
serves to emphasise is that Love, in its own nature, demands the
perfecting of the beloved; that the mere “kindness” which tolerates
anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the
opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we
cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not
rather then first begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign
of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is
looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost:
but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love
still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.
Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the
beloved; his “feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender
horns of cockled snails”. Of all powers he forgives most; but he
condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.
When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God
loves man: not that He has some “disinterested”, because really
indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and
surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a
loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked,
the “lord of terrible aspect”, is present: not a senile benevolence that
drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold
philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host
who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the
consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent
as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a
dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous,
inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How this should be,
I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to
say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in
their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond
our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our
desiring; we are inclined, like the maidens in the old play, to
deprecate the love of Zeus. But the fact seems unquestionable. The
Impassible speaks as if it suffered passion, and that which contains
in Itself the cause of its own and all other bliss talks as though it
could be in want and yearning. “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a
pleasant child? for since I spake against him I do earnestly
remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him.” “How
shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I abandon thee, Israel?
Mine heart is turned within me.” ” Oh Jerusalem, how often would I
have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her
chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”

C. S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain