She stared at me, jaw straight and chin high, and said the three words. I stood there looking back at her, my jaw not so straight and my chin normal, not exactly knowing what to say other than to ask her to say it again. In a slow cadence that enunciated perfectly each of the three syllables, she repeated—“God. Hates. Me.”
“God hates you because your mail isn’t here?” I asked.
“Yes. If He wanted, He could make sure it got here. It’s not here. So God hates me.”
It was the sort of logic I’ve gotten accustomed to here at work, a place full of higher learning and lower thinking. And I had no doubt the student in front of me really didn’t mean what she said. She was angry. Frustrated. Down.
“You know the mail’s backed up,” I told her. “The hurricane and all.”
“Didn’t God make the hurricane?”
“Doesn’t the atmosphere or something make the hurricane? Something about the air off the coast of Africa?”
“Doesn’t God make the air off the coast of Africa?”
I could see where this was going.
“I don’t think God hates you,” I said. “The U.S. Postal Service, maybe. But not God.”
My attempt at levity did little to resolve the situation. She grunted and walked off. I told her to check back again tomorrow. She said she would if God hadn’t killed her by then.
That was yesterday. I didn’t see her today—I’m assuming God hasn’t killed her—which is good, considering her mail still hasn’t arrived. I’m still of the opinion that she was kidding about the whole God-hating-her thing, assuming she knows a little about God. You don’t need a lot of knowledge about the Higher Things to know He doesn’t hate anyone, that God is love.
There have been times when I’ve caught myself thinking that same sort of thing. Maybe not that God hates me, but certainly that He’s ignoring me. That He’s more concerned with keeping the universe expanding and the world turning than little old me. I suppose that’s not as bad as thinking He hates me. I guess it isn’t much better, either.
Aren’t we all at times like that, though? So much of life is fill-in-the-blank. Things are going badly because _________. Often what we give as our answer is more pessimism than optimism. We hurt and we take sick, we fall on hard times, not because others have done so since time immemorial, but because God hates us.
A few months ago, I got the chance to observe a professional jeweler polish silver. The process charmed me. He walked me through the entire process. The secret, he said, was heat. A good silversmith knows just how hot to get the silver before it is molded. Too hot, and it’s ruined. Too cool, and it spoils. The piece he was polishing? Perfect. Just enough heat.
I think God is like that with us. We’re made for better things—Higher Things—than to simply exist. We must be good for something. We must be molded in a fire neither too hot nor too cool. We are all pieces of silver in the Jeweler’s hand.
It is true this world is cracked and made for suffering. But it is also true that by suffering, we are made to heal what cracks we can.
God does not hate us, He simply loves us too much to fill our lives with ease.
One final thing about that jeweler. He told me he’d been sitting there for hours shining that piece of silver. That fact seemed a bit pointless to me. I couldn’t imagine it shining any brighter. I asked him how he would know when it had been polished enough.
“The silver faces the fire,” he said, “but it isn’t done. Then it is molded and polished, but it still isn’t done. The silver is only done when it casts the Jeweler’s reflection.”