On a blog which deals with the challenges of life after the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, a commenter asked me to defend my “bad theology" regarding my use of the phrase "God's writes straight on crooked lines." Below is the response I wrote.
First let me distance myself from an understanding or the phrase I’ve seen around LC/RC blogs where the saying is described as “Legionspeak.” During my time in the Legion, I heard the phrase only in the context of “folk wisdom.” I believe the original saying is attributed to some Portuguese Bishop in the 16th Century. It seems that Thomas Merton also used it, referring to his feelings for some woman. I don’t believe I have used it to “defend” or “excuse” the sins of MM or anyone else for that matter. So here is the way I understand it; please do not saddle me with whatever emotional baggage the phrase has acquired in the LC/RC blogosphere.
The phrase: “God draws straight with crooked lines” is interpreted, I think, by Christians and Theologians as “bad theology.”
I don‘t understand the saying to mean: that God turns sin into blessings. I also don’t think it means that God “could” actually write in a “straight line” within the confines of “crooked lines.” Rather, for a Christian I believe the saying means: “Things don't always turn out the way we'd planned them. Despite our human failings, God still wants what is best for us. Knowing this, we can still trust Him, making sense of setbacks, adversity and changes of plan.
For instance, it doesn’t seem that God “planned” for suffering and death to be part of human existence according to the Genesis story. Those realities came to be because of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve. They include war, nastiness and “man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.” So, to use the saying in this situation, I think it’s fair to say God wrote a “straight line” right across the “crooked” ones presented by the transgression of our first parents. He sent His Son into the world to make things right. He used the “crooked lines” drawn by the fee will of Adam and Eve to meet us in the new reality they had forged.
Ever since then us humans are bound by time and an urgent need to make sense of the senseless. In so doing, we sometimes forget God operates outside of the confines of time and space.
As faulty humans, bound by time and a need to make sense of the senseless, we can forget God operates outside of the boundaries of time - in eternity. It's really not a concept that any of us are qualified to argue about with God. To paraphrase Karl Barth, the more we try to “say” about God (in terms of understanding Him), the more likely we are to be mistaken. All we can really know is what Jesus revealed to us. So, the saying “God writes straight” most definitely does not mean we can rationalize any set of circumstances as God’s Will. And it definitely does not mean that “forgiveness” has anything to do with approval of behavior that is morally wrong.
If we “fast forward” to Jesus’ human “background” it is clear that some of the institutions that shaped the Jewish faith were less than holy. His ancestry did not just include the great and privileged but also the poor and the insignificant despite the fact that we often overly-idealize our “saints.” Weakness and insignificance are important components in the continuing the story of the incarnation.
Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death (gates of hell) shall not prevail against it.” The Scriptural testimony is clear, and is confirmed by history, the Church has endured century after century despite all obstacles.
God allows evils to happen in order to bring forth a greater good; hence it is written (Rom. 5:20): "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound." At the blessing of the Paschal candle, we say: "O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!" These citations are deep in meaning. For starters, "sin" and "grace" are loaded words; but they are familiar things. We find them whenever we search within ourselves for meaning. They determine our life.
I think of “sin” as “separation from God.” I think of “grace” as God’s personal intervention in our lives to help us discover the certainty of the eternal meaning of our life, resulting not in a false sense of goodness or self-complacency, although it does help us accept ourselves for who we really are. It enables us to love ourselves. It heals the “separation” from God, from ourselves and from others. Grace makes us whole again, its peace leaving no space for self-hate and self-contempt.It bestows meaning on our lives. We can always count on it.
That is what “God writes straight on crooked lines” means to me. It makes no sense outside of a Christian view of the world.