Westmont Magazine It's Not Fair
An excerpt from a Chapel address by Madeleine L’Engle, Author of “A Wrinkle in Time” and many other books
There is no justice, Isaiah said (Isaiah 59:15-21). In other words, it’s not fair. One of my daughters used to stamp her foot and say, “It’s not fair.” And mostly it isn’t. So God has to come and take care of it. Paul is more or less telling Timothy, “It’s not fair” (II Timothy 1:15-2:13). Then he said to Timothy, “You must go and redress this.” In the Gospel lesson (Mark 10:1-16), Jesus is talking about the unfairness of the marriage practices of the day. And then he says, “But you have to be like little children.”
The marriage practices of the day were not fair. A man could say to a woman, “I divorce you, I divorce you,” and she was out on the streets. Marriage was not fair. Women were supposed to do all the work.
We’ve moved a long way in our feelings about this. Jesus moved us. When he spoke to the woman at the well, he was breaking three taboos: you did not take water from a woman; you did not speak to a woman; and you certainly did not speak to a Samaritan woman. His friendship with women was also unheard of—men did not have women as friends. Women were little more than slaves. They were used. They were abused.
We’ve slowly changed in our attitude towards this gross unfairness. In this century, in my lifetime, an enormous amount has changed.
As one kind of unfairness gets redressed, another crops up in its place. Life is not fair. The media tries to teach us that life is fair and that normal is nice. Normal is not nice. When something strange happens, we think it isn’t normal, and we get upset. But that is normal.
Life is not fair, but it is also full of incredible glories if we allow ourselves to look at things as we did when we were children. We may have stamped and said, “It’s not fair,” but we also didn’t miss the glory of the sunset or the first star.
Ultimately, you stop looking for fairness because we have something much better. When God came to us as Jesus, that wiped away all the unfairness because Jesus came for us all. Everybody. Nobody was excluded. Not women, not men, not children. Jesus was born for everybody.
You can’t take that away, that absolute love given to all no matter what we do. No matter how we stamp and yell, “It’s not fair.” No matter how much we make things unfair ourselves.
If we truly love God, we won’t do the unfair things. It just isn’t possible. Love doesn’t do them. Love is never unfair. God’s love is never unfair. There is always a reason.
I have come to trust it when God says, “No.” We tend to think “no” is not an answer. Well that’s not true. I’ve come to learn that when God says, “No,” it is usually the prelude to something absolutely wonderful that couldn’t have happened without that original “no” we thought was so unfair. Like a little child, we know that the story is ultimately going to have a happy ending despite the unfair and terrible things that happen in between. God promises us this happy ending. The promise begins with creation but comes out to us vividly in the birth of that tiny baby whose love embraces us all.
God is not an angry father. I don’t look at what is wrong in my children, but what is right. And I believe that God does not look at our unfairness, at our selfishness, at our anger, but at our potential, at what God wants us to be. God wants us to be ourselves, fully ourselves. Not somebody else.
We tend to be given idols by the media of what we’re supposed to be. They’re training us to live in a world that becomes more and more unfair rather than the world that was created in which we keep the bright, loving, questioning eyes of a child.
The God of creation came as a little baby and said, “Here I am. I am with you. I’m not going to stop the bad things, but I’m with you. I’m in it with you.”
Christ bears our pain, and, in bearing it, gives us life. Only as little children do we dare know that we are totally loved just as we are in the midst of the unfairness and lack of justice. Our vocation is to be these children that God loves.