Aug 17, 2011
I admit I used to pray that my SSA would be taken away. I guess I still do, occasionally, though not with great conviction. I reckon that if He wanted to take it away, He would have by now, and it’s not something I should worry about too much.
Besides, in one sense, I doubt He could do it. God can do anything, but as Dorothy Sayers pointed out, some propositions aren’t “things” at all. That’s why the old business with can-he-make-a-rock-so-heavy-he-can’t-lift-it, is nonsense. It’s like saying, “Oh yeah? If God’s so powerful, can He make a point that oranges a square?”
The reason I doubt He could do it is this. My SSA isn’t my essence, but it’s deep inside me, and it’s tied to everything else. I have a beautiful children’s book by Jean Vanier. In one of the illustrations, Jesus is carefully untangling a sheep that’s gotten caught in the thorns. I think that for God to suddenly undo my SSA would be like yanking the sheep out of those thorns. What else would come away with it?
Speaking of thorns: not long ago at Mass we had the parable of the wheat and the tares, a story that seemed perverse to me when I was younger (why not just yank out all the weeds NOW?), but which I understand better now. Things are mixed now, they are tangled and unclear; that is the nature of the world. We can’t just yank out the parts that don’t suit us, because we don’t know what they’re for, and because we don’t know what they’re attached to: “while you are pulling up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.”
What would it be like if tomorrow I woke up straight? What would I be like? I can’t imagine. Would I be attracted to women but still desire men emotionally? That would be an impossible situation, and I wouldn’t be any more suited for marriage than I am now. Then would I suddenly not want intimacy with men?
First of all, that would be just as unnatural as wanting the wrong kind. People are made for intimacy with people, and all men, straight or gay, are meant for friendship. It’s also true, though, that the specific kind of desire I have for men — the romantic kind — isn’t natural and isn’t good.1 But that’s the reason it’s not the kind of thing God takes away.
I mean this: He doesn’t take away my SSA for the same reason that He won’t magically make me unselfish, or courageous; he won’t zap away my laziness or my self-indulgence. These are things that, by their nature, take work. If I was the kind of person who actually wanted to get out of bed at 6AM every morning, or who just naturally felt cheerful all the time, that wouldn’t mean I was virtuous. It would just mean I was lucky.
Where would I be if I had been born without clear and obvious flaws? I’d be arrogant as all get out, for one. The fact that I can still manage to be arrogant now, even after seeing myself be petty and selfish on innumerable occasions, is pretty astonishing.
Imagine how screwed I’d be if there were nothing wrong with me?