November 7, 2012

God's Economy

It takes an unreasonable persona to dismiss ‘God’s economy,’ ” says the inspirational speaker. As if on cue, everyone who was marginally awake is now wide awake—including me.  

Sitting through a required pastoral-care workshop, I am listening to the last guest speaker for the day. She has used a familiar term: unreasonable persona. Just yesterday, in a persuasion course, I shared this term with graduate students. An unreasonable persona is someone who simply refuses to engage in dialogue about a topic; someone who has missed important details that would otherwise help them make a positive decision or observation during a difficult situation. The difficult concept of an unreasonable persona is the fact that we often fail to recognize those characteristics in ourselves.

I listen to the speaker say that every experience we have gone through has prepared us for this moment. She says that God has witnessed our tears and our joys, and He has been part of our journey. “Nothing in our experiences goes to waste,” she says, “no emotion, no event. Our experiences are all a blessing; our pain is recycled blessings.” Pain? Recycled? I have officially become an unreasonable persona.
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I glance at my colleague, Mike, who willingly signed up for this workshop to meet continuing education requirements. Both of us are delinquent in keeping up the required workshop hours for the quarter. Eyes fixed on the speaker, I note his clenched jaw, his tight grip on notepad and pencil. Unreasonable persona?

The 10-minute break arrives, and I follow Mike to the reception hall, where refreshments await. Something is bothering him. Something is bothering me. In my experience attending conferences, I have learned to approach ideas and phrases with caution. Often personal ideologies are nothing more than that: personal—not based on anything other than opinion.

As we walk around the reception hall Mike confesses that the speaker’s message has created turmoil in him. After spending six years abroad fighting in a war, Mike cannot reconcile the notion that God has “recycled” any emotions and experiences for the right now. “Even when hindsight is 20/20, it isn’t easy to find or affix a potential blessing to something that happened to us,” he says. “A difficult experience gathers meaning when we are no longer in it but can speak of it.”

As I listen to Mike, I think of how God’s economy has played out in my life. Many times God has picked me up from locations, jobs, situations, and places; and, even though not obvious at the moment, I found greener pastures. Terrible things happen, and we often ask “Why?” This is true for everyone.

What is the most difficult experience you have gone through? How many struggles have you survived? Have you witnessed events that have shaken your faith? Do you remember that feeling of despair when there was truly no obvious outcome to an impossible situation? Have you ever crumbled to your knees only to cry and discover that our mortal language has no words for the despair you felt? Yet God hears your plight. Has Scripture not shown us that God is a God of graciousness, mercy, and abundance?

God’s economy. Why is this phrase bothering me so?

Later at home I am ready for much-needed rest. The phone rings. It’s Mike. He tells me that on the drive home he remembered something that made him think about God’s economy: “I was in a hospital, injured, and the medical team had already told me I would be going home. I remember long days of excruciating pain. All I had was a Bible the Army chaplain had left with me. I read it cover to cover. It was my lifeline. That’s when I decided to become a Christian. That’s when I decided to become a chaplain.”

There is silence on the line.

“Maybe it’s not about God’s economy, but instead God’s continuing education. That often, in the least of all places we find Him, our experiences bring us closer to God. Like Jacob, we refuse to let go without receiving a blessing, and these are always abundant. What do you think?”

God’s continuing education? No unreasonable persona here. 

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer chaplain, lives in north Texas. Join the dialogue at [email protected]. This article was published November 8, 2012.