Tuesday, June 9, 2015

All the Time

This is a 4000-word Curio story. It may be too long for blog-hopping. But if you decide to stay, this is the scoop about Curio stories; they are my way of working out questions I have. I have written two others, one about the Garden of Eden, and one about Curio's Show and Tell. This story helped me sort out the question of if God is good, why....  I realize it is not a complete explanation and I relied very heavily on essays by C. S. Lewis. He, in fact, is Curio's professor in this story.

God is good.
All the time.
All the time.
God is good.

Curio was confused.  Again.  It seemed like every day there was something.  Something to make her squirmy, uncomfortable, doubtful, or like today, just plain confused.

She focused on the words she had written.  The gold ink reflected the light and they glimmered and shone on the page. It wasn't the first sentence she was having difficulty with.  Those words glowed.

God is good.  Yes, He was. Glowingly, wonderfully, sparklingly good.  Just the thought of Him lifted her spirit, like effervescent bubbles that tickled the nose, like a spray of water on a hot day, like goosebumps on the underside of her wings that stood her delicate down on end. She bounced a little on her seat; she just couldn't contain her enthusiasm for her good God.

It was the second part, the frequency part that had her stymied, that almost had her cross-eyed with frustration. All the time? Really? Did that mean always and forever, continuously without rest? As in time never-ending? An infinite line of goodness? Or did it mean each and every incident, every single action? She pictured the heavens filled with infinite points of goodness, spinning and swirling into galaxies of kindness and decency, into universes of righteousness. But if there were points of goodness, then it followed there would also be points of not-so-goodness, of nothing-ness, and even, perhaps, of bad-ness. Wouldn't it?

Curio could list lots of examples where it didn't seem like her good God was good at all. When it seemed like her good God might be acting a little to the left of good. She started to count, extending her fingers in recitation. It didn't feel very good when her friend Patience lost her temper and huffed away without a word. It didn't feel very good when she stubbed a wingtip playing 'Roll the Halo'. It didn't feel very good when she went to bed with no supper just because she had stretched the truth a little. And those were just a start.

What about the news she was hearing, like distant thunder, of war and pestilence, of hunger and disease, of fear and anxiety? Again, Curio stared at the words on the parchment before her. All the time. 

She couldn't stop her hand from raising; it crept into the air above her head, stopping and starting, stopping and starting. Face warm, stomach shaking, wings all aquiver, she blurted out one, single word...


"But, what?" Voice calm, the Substitute Teacher focused on the trembling, little angel.

"But, He's not good ALL the time." Her voice was very, very quiet, and her eyes were filling with tears.

Curio found it impossible to look at her classmates; she was so distressed. Why, oh why had she interrupted a perfectly good lesson? No matter how much she wiggled or squirmed in her seat, she couldn't push herself any further down; she couldn't make herself invisible. She felt miserable. Case in point, she wasn't feeling so very good in this moment...

Hand down, now, she chanced a peek toward the man in the front of the room, the substitute. Without lifting her head, she looked past her lashes, peering from beneath the glow of her halo.

He was looking right at her. Her first inclination was to duck, but she chose, instead, to face him. A single tear dropped to her desk. Her lips smiled at the thought of showing this stranger her weakness, her emotional uncertainty, her lack of control. Not for the first time, she wished she could disappear.

Curio noticed his eyes first. They were soft brown, rich and loamy like the silkiest of clays. He had introduced himself as Jack, simply Jack and had insisted the class must call him that, without any honorifics or pretenses. The writing on the board, those simple four lines, which all the angels had dutifully copied into their notebooks, was his. English schoolboy, proper and precise. He was not dressed in heavenly robes and did not have wings, as other substitutes had. He wore earthly garb, a roomy, tweed coat with wide lapels, a comfortable sweater vest, and a double-windsor-knotted tie. He was, beyond a doubt, professor material, linguistics they had been told; and in those deep eyes, holding her gaze, she saw deep tenderness, and infinite kindness.

"Ah," his voice was as soft as his eyes. Abruptly, he turned and began taking measured steps, back and forth, back and forth, across the front of the classroom, hands clasped loosely behind his back.

Curio could feel her classmates; she sensed their emotions, eddying and swirling like rainwater in a flooded drain spout, like waves in a tidal pool, like her own confusion, embarrassment, curiosity, and determination. Overflowing without release, pressing and pushing, jostling and splashing. As their professor paced, Curio noted other hands, some raising into the air tentatively, some thrust forcefully overhead, some waving frantically.

The Professor stopped his pacing and stood quietly. His posture commanded attention; without moving his head, Curio could see him acknowledge the fountain of raised hands. He cleared his throat softly and the fountain splashed apart, the hands lowered, uncertainly at first, and then faster, with purpose, until there was nothing left in the space between heads and ceiling except haloes and wings. The classroom was silent.

"What are the natures of God?" The Professor-named-Jack stood poised by the board, ready to write.

"He is all-knowing," Patience called out.

"And all-powerful," added Principio.

"He is all-loving." Wisdom's voice was just a whisper, but it cut through the silence like thunder.

Jack, using Curio's favorite gold marker, wrote:
  • Omniscient, 
  • Omnipotent, 
  • Omnibenevolent
"Which of these is NOT good?" He turned to look at the class, angels sitting at the edges of their seats, quills poised. His half-moon eyebrows raised and lowered with the inflection of his question, causing his hairline to bob up and down. 

No one answered. 

Patiently, he pointed the marker to the first word. "God is all knowing. Do you agree? Can you think of any examples?"

Puppetlike, heads nodded and haloes glimmered and gleamed. Agapio raised his hand. "God knew the Babylonian king's dream." The professor nodded in agreement.

"God knew what David did to Uriel." This, from Honoria, blushing slightly.

"Circumstances. Do you agree? God knows events. Is there another kind of all-knowing? One that isn't incident oriented?"

Curio's hand shot into the air. Again, before she could stop herself, she blurted out, "Wisdom!"

The professor smiled, as much at her impatience as at the correctness of her answer. "Well done." She could tell he was pleased. It made her heart glad to please him.

He turned again to the board and added a definition: omniscient - all knowing, all wise, all seeing. Then he pointed to the next word: Omnipotent. "And this one," he asked, eyebrows raised slightly, causing lines on his forehead to wrinkle, giving him a slightly surprised expression. "Can you think of examples for this?" He looked over the class with his plowed forehead and quizzical smile.

"The plagues of Egypt...the great flood...Sodom and Gomorrah...the Tower of Babel...Jonah and the whale...Jonah and the worm...Isaac..." Titters and squeaks erupted through the room. "...yes, Isaac, and Jericho and Gilead..."

The response was immediate and loud. Not quite chaotic, and the professor practically danced in agreement to all. "Yes, yes!" He exclaimed, he sang, he shouted. "Words, phrases, thoughts, ideas!"

Titters and squeaks. Curio couldn't hide her smile of delight at the antics of this man. The classroom sparkled with amusement, none more than he, swirling with arms raised and coattails flapping. "Yes," he exclaimed again. Then his eyebrows drew together into a 'V' and his voice thundered, "Yes, power that created the universe with a WORD!"

And the angels sat delicately, dangerously, adoringly still, because another voice was booming through the room:
I am he; 
I am the first and I am the last.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
"Is this power good?" Jack whispered into the silence after the storm.

Heads nodded solemn assent; Curio found herself balanced on the edge of her seat, wingtips pointed, toes curled against the straps of her sandals that barely touched the floor beneath her desk.

Next to the word Omnipotent, the professor had drawn and labeled columns, and placed headings over each: Creation and Destruction. "Categorize your examples, you may work together if you wish."

Curio moved next to her best friend, Patience, and they looked at the categories together, trying to remember the examples from the frenzy-before-the-voice.

"God created the earth," Patience began. Curio agreed, remembering the sound of HIS voice echoing foundations of earth...

"And the heavens," Curio added. They both scribbled Earth and Heaven in the first column.

The classroom was all abuzz with activity and discussion as the angels worked. "What about the Plagues of Egypt?" Curio, even as she voiced the question, was already writing Plagues under the second column; she remembered the destruction by the locusts, the biting flies, the river running red with blood, and she remembered the wailing of Egyptian families on the morning of the Passover. Unconsciously, she snugged her wings up next to her ears, soft, downy, sound-blocking, memory-fogging wings. Definitely destruction.

She stopped writing mid-word. Her mind had caught up to her hand. Destruction? She abruptly put her quill down and looked at Patience with horror. How could destructive power be good? Remembering the smell of sulpher and the raining of fire on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Curio felt queasy. Again, she heard screaming; she saw the burnt corpses, the scorched stone, she felt the groaning of the earth beneath toppling walls. Anytime? She remembered the panic from the rising waters of the flood, like a never-ending, incoming tide, the unstoppable, inexorable drowning of all that was green, all that breathed. Except for a lone ship floating like a cork above the waters, floating with the hope of a world. She was right back where she had started, feeling confused, and uncomfortable. Somehow guilty, somehow ashamed.

She knew what she needed to do, right there in the middle of the classroom, in the middle of the activity and noise. Carefully, Curio placed her quill on her parchment, then she folded her hands in her lap, trying hard not to hold them too tightly. Squeezing her eyes shut in an effort to push away from distractions, she tucked her head down, and prayed. "Oh God," she thought silently, lips moving with earnest sincerity, "Oh God, forgive me for thinking anything but good about you. Forgive me for doubting you. I am just a little angel, God, and you, you ARE. Thank you for all your works. All of them, because they are good, because you are good. God, I know you made me to glorify you. And I do, really. You are holy. You are awesome. You are God. And I'm not. So maybe you can help me understand a little of these things that confuse me. A little. God. If you want to. Thank you God."

Curio still had her eyes shut tightly; it was her ears that sensed a change in the room. It had just been a short prayer, but in that time, the noise in the classroom had gone from active to silent. Raising one eyelid from beneath her bowed head, Curio noted dropped jaws, wide eyes, and paralyzed quills. All of the angels had stopped writing. Angel mouths shaped like angel-O's, angel feathers in shocked disarray, angel halos tilted in unexpected surprise. Curio opened both eyes, swinging her head away from the stunned look on the face of her partner, to the front of the room where the Substitute Teacher stood by the board, with the two columns. He was the center of focus.

And he continued to be the center of undivided, scrupulous attention as he wrote each example Curio had so viscerally remembered, under both column heads: Plagues, Flood. She looked at the words, shining in gold marker, written fluidly, painstakingly in English schoolboy cursive, twins, commanding recognition as creative power as well as destructive power.

"Curio," the substitute's voice rang out, "How can this be? How is it possible for one event to occupy two columns?" She stifled a nervous giggle and pushed down her immediate thought: God's power makes it possible....get it?...it's the punchline to a celestial joke...tada-dum. Instead of blurting out her first thought, with a silent thank-you for help in controlling her tongue, she focused on the first word. Plagues. Yes, the plagues were, plain and simple, bad. But they helped Moses accomplish God's plan for the Hebrew slaves. They helped to soften Pharoah's heart. Out of Egypt was born Israel. The laws of Moses. The birthplace of the Messiah.

Curio's heart skipped a little beat in her excitement. And the Flood. The sinful world was destroyed but God gave the new world a promise of hope, with his rainbow. And He had chosen the survivors. Noah. Out of Noah, Shem. From Shem, Terah. From Terah, Abraham. Then the impossibility of Isaac. And so on, all the way across generations to Jesus, son of Mary, betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth.

God's destruction led to Redemption. To new life. To hope, to grace, to mercy.  To Love himself.

She began to talk, to explain, trying hard to control the pitch and speed of her words. She was so very excited about her conclusion. The words poured out, her thoughts and connections. She saw the other angels nodding and she smiled inwardly when she saw a couple of her friends give her the thumbs up. The professor still stood by the board with his gold marker. She was in the middle of reciting the lineage of Noah when she stopped short, her words arrested by a new thought. The professor was writing Sodom and Gomorrah in the Destruction column, and had paused and turned slightly toward her, perhaps waiting to hear how the annihilation of these cities was also redemptive, cause for new hope and life.

She couldn't think of anything. This was, in her mind, pure and simple destruction. And destruction couldn't possibly be good.

Could it?
Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.
The voice, just as it had before, filled the air and spaces within the classroom. It ruffled wings, feathers rustled like leaves in a wind. The silence erupted into a chorus of sharply indrawn and expelled breath. The atmosphere tingled, Curio felt fine webs across her face, and knew them as echoes of power, charged and electric. She knew HIS voice and closed her eyes in anticipation of HIS glory.

"Ahem." Quietly, the professor cleared his throat, gathering the attention of the angels like a net gathers fish.

"Did I mention that this is not an easy lesson?" His brown eyes shone, a little tired, perhaps, yet his smile was full of light. He walked slowly down the aisle and stopped by Curio's desk. He smelled like soap and spice, and she thought she detected a faint hint of pipe tobacco. The scent of him, earthy and real, calmed her. He looked down and his smile widened. Curio noticed that he wore a pocketwatch, the chain draped elegantly from his vest. The initials CSL were engraved in a swirly monogram.

"Did I tell you," he was looking directly at Curio with this, "that this is one of the Great Debates in Christendom? That for some, it is the make-it-or-break it reason to believe or not to believe?"

Curio felt curiously relieved. Yes, she was still confused, but at least she wasn't the only one...

"But," he smiled very broadly at this, winking at Curio, "God is good."

"And," he continued, walking swiftly back to the front of the room, "We are about to unravel this debate." His words had quickened; his pitch had risen from baritone to tenor; his step could only be described as lively. Curio knew to get her quill ready because his excitement was contagious. She knew THIS was going to be good.

"The argument is: If God is good all the time, then all that God does must also be good. And because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then He must be responsible for all things. If, however, there are bad things, then God can't possibly be good. At least not all the time.

Curio wrote his words as he spoke, nodding in agreement. He said it so easily, so clearly. She caught her breath at the thought of her good God, and the logic that was proving Him faulty.

"We've looked at God's omniscience. I believe we decided that the knowing, seeing, and wisdom were all good. Then, we started to look at His omnipotence, and we could see that redemption was part of the equation. And redemption is good. But we were faced by a conundrum about His goodness when we considered Sodom and Gomorrah. Now, let me remind you of an earlier event. Would you consider the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to be an act of God's power? Yes? Was it God who caused Eve to sin? It was the serpent? Are you sure?"

Curio knew what he was leading to. The serpent could not have tempted Eve, if she had not had the ability to choose. If she had not been given the gift of free will. Honoria had her hand in the air.

"It was her choice. She chose the Tree of Knowledge, even after God told her not to. She made a bad choice."

"Bingo!" The professor, Just-call-me-Jack, was positively ebullient. "She chose. Was God responsible for her choice? Turn to page 212 in your textbook. Read the paragraph at the top of the page."

Curio was stunned. This was a new look at an old story. God created Eve with free will. If he hadn't... Concentrating, she flipped to page 212, it was a quote by a man called C. S. Lewis from his book Mere Christianity.
"God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible."
The paragraph was only half read, when a stray thought came to Curio.  She had read C.S. Lewis before. She was very familiar with his delightful series about Narnia; she especially loved Aslan, the not-tame. The substitute liked to be called Jack; C. S. Lewis like to be called Jack. Hmm.... She continued reading.
Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata - of creatures that worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight...And for that they've got to be free."
Oh my! HE wanted them to choose to obey; HE wanted them to choose to love HIM; HE wanted them to say Yes to HIM.

The professor continued. "So, what is good? You can be good for the mere sake of goodness; you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong - only because cruelty is pleasant or useful to him, In other words, badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. "

Oh my! Curio was processing the professor's words. God was good all the time. Humans made bad choices. But how... how could her good God not KNOW those choices would be made? How could her good God allow a world with pockets of the absence of good?
“If God 'foresaw' our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose god is outside and above the Time-line... You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way--because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but the moment at which you have done it is already 'NOW' for Him.”
Oh my! The cost of free will was sin. And God knew it as it happened. Curio thought back to the columns Creation and Destruction. She considered that word redemption. She thought about her good God, the God who always had a plan. A plan! Curio's quill knocked the inkwell off the desk, she raised her hand so quickly. She jumped up and down in her seat; she couldn't contain her excitement.

"My dear Miss Curio, is there something you'd like to share?"

She felt quite breathless and gulped a couple of times before squeaking out the precious name.


The professor stood for a moment, beaming at the class. Then he abruptly turned to the board and wrote:

It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion. 

She remembered a verse she had learned long ago, a verse about God loving the world so much that he gave his only Son...

She remembered the scars on the hands and brow of her Teacher. The scars she could see beneath his sandal straps. She remembered the day when 10,000 angels cried because God hadn't allowed a rescue, the day the veil in the temple split. Because, she now understood, God had planned an even greater rescue, an even more daring rescue than that of lifting a man from a cross. Any angel could lift a broken body, that was compassion. God-in-the-Flesh took on the sins of the world, even at the cost of the-Father-God turning his face away. And He died with those sins. He took them to the grave. That sacrifice, that undeserved suffering, THAT was love. And love was the ultimate good.

Omnibenevolent. She should have figured it out from the start. All-loving.

The substitute finished writing:

"But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

Curio couldn't help herself. She had to say it. It needed to be said, loud and clear and in a ringing voice:

God is good. All times. all the time, all of time, all through time.

The professor began to clap. Curio turned slowly where she stood, still breathless, and now flushed. He was clapping for Jesus. Her hands acted independently from her thoughts. She was clapping for Jesus. And for her good God - one and the same. Perfect love. She saw the other angels, her classmates, standing one by one. They joined in the Professor's applause.


  1. Wow! What a beautiful story to teach us that God is good all the time. You have quite a gift for telling a story. I am so glad you popped over to my blog so I could meet you today here at yours. I am blessed by your words.

    1. Thank you, Mary, your words are an encouragement. I should have asked what you taught for 30 years. I taught 5th grade for 15 and ESL for two... I wish you the best on your retirement.

  2. Thanks for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday!

    1. You are a gracious hostess - thank you for taking the time to visit me!


I know we probably haven't met in person, but I believe that the sharing of our ideas and thoughts, sometimes our hearts and souls, makes us more than strangers. I would like to say friends. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my little space - I appreciate you.