It is what it is

Why is God so good to me? That question came up in a conversation I had yesterday. As I find myself nearly half way through my summer internship here in Geneva, I am full of joy and gratitude for being given this amazing opportunity to learn about Franciscans International and the work of human rights advocacy at the United Nations. These past few weeks, I have been privileged enough to attend meetings at the UN on issues ranging from migration, climate change, the rights of children, and freedom of expression focused on places as diverse Mexico, Okinawa, Japan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have also been blessed to meet people so knowledgeable and passionate about defending human rights and the dignity of those who are most marginalized among us. And while I am aware that this opportunity has been a privilege conferred on me because of my membership with the Order of Friars Minor, I also feel, at the risk of sounding hopelessly pious, that it is also a gift. This entire time has been one blessing after another.

So amidst the excitement and wonder of these new experiences, I too felt myself pausing nervously to ask, Why is God so good to me? It is a question that I have often asked myself before in those moments of grace; when I become aware, in a profound way, of the presence of God in my life. It is a sensation that immediately invites an expression of gratitude and joy, perhaps a natural response when one senses or perceives the quiet movements of the Divine.

At the same time, that question, Why is God so good to me?, is also pregnant with doubt. It is a question that I have asked from the perspective of incredulity and unworthiness. Why is God so good to me, who often feels so underserving of goodness, of kindness, of love? It is as if the entirety of scripture and tradition, and even my own encounter with God, is somehow unable to convince me of the immensity of God’s love. I have put some unseen, unknown qualification on Divine love – a standard that I often feel myself just short of despite its unrelenting outpouring.

In this regard I can sometimes make my relationship with God all about myself. I make my sentiments the adjudicator of God’s actions and motivations. Is that how I picture this God of infinite love, “Who is the fullness of good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good, Who alone is good, merciful, gentle, delightful, and sweet” (Francis of Assisi, The Early Rule)?

I realized then that my questioning of God’s capacity to love me misses out entirely on the point of love. Even when I feel unworthy of being loved by God, I know that God still loves, because that is what God is. It is what it is. It is a love that is confounding, impenetrably thick, overwhelming, and unyielding.

I came across this poem by the Austrian poet, Erich Fried (1921 – 1988), who in many ways captures the disconcerting nature of Divine love. It is what It is. I Am who I Am.

Was es ist 

Es ist Unsinn
sagt die Vernunft
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe

Es is Unglück
sagt die Berechnung
Es ist nichts als Schmerz
sagt die Angst
Es ist aussichtslos
sagt die Einsicht
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe

Es ist lächerlich
sagt der Stolz
Es ist leichtsinnig
sagt die Vorsicht
Es ist unmöglich
sagt die Erfahrung
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe

What It Is 

It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says Love

It is calamity
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says Love

It is ludicrous
says pride
It is foolish
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says Love

English translation by © Anna Kallio.

One thought on “It is what it is

  1. Be well, Christian. We hold you in prayer. When you look at those mountains don’t we realize how very small we are? I did when I was in Denver. That is what brought me to the contemplative life. Soak it in. Shalom to you. S Florence OSC

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