Yes, the photo is gross. Without the photo, however, you would not grasp the severity of the burn on my toes. The unofficial medical diagnosis (via emailed photos) is that I received a second-degree burn.
I am en route to the International Democratic Education Conference in Boulder, Colorado from my home in eastern Oregon. I chose to drive the scenic route, taking my time. So, why when I am intentionally focused on God’s creation would God allow this to happen? Why Would a loving God allow my foot to get burned in a freak accident when I have trails to hike?
The short answer is like the major accidents, like hurricanes, like all manner of trauma in the world, God did not cause me to burn my foot. God did not cause the cheese on the microwave pizza to slide off the crust as I moved it to a plate. God did not cause bubbling cheese to land on my bare foot in a roadside motel. That is not the God that I perceive and experience.
Sadly, that is what too many people perceive as God. Too many religious (and even too many atheists) define God as capricious, arbitrary, and a chess master with us as pawns. God in this view is all-powerful and all-knowing. The trouble with that God is that you end up blaming God for cancer, bad weather, and for scalding cheese.
For me, God is all-knowing only in the sense that God knew it was a possibility that, given the free-will I possess, I (and those who designed the cheese and microwave) that events might lead to a second-degree burn on my foot. God who loves each atom as much as each human being encouraged decisions that would lead to good. Sadly, free-will led to blisters.
In the moment of pain, in that time when I screamed out in my motel room, dancing with bubbling cheese on my foot, God felt my skin burning. Waking to the blisters on my foot, my disappointment at what this might mean for my planned journey, God also felt my worry and frustration. But the loving One who is in each of us (and each teeny speck of Creation), the loving One who is in the connections between us, and the loving One who lures us — never forces us — doesn’t allow bad things to have the final say.
Just as in the Christian narrative through which I come to the Divine, even something as heinous as a crucifixion does not stop the power of love from changing the world. God uses what happens for good. God does NOT cause bad things to happen. The distinction is significant because it speaks to the nature of love.
The Divine One continues to speak to me as I continue my journey, albeit driving in my slippers instead of my hiking boots. Extravagant & relentless Love is like that, it sticks with us, it empathizes with us, and it helps us and encourages us to see the unfolding realm of God no matter what challenges befall us.