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Sovereignty // Jenelle D'Alessandro

This post is a part of the Sovereignty of God Blog Series going on throughout the months of July and August. You can read about the series and see a schedule of the posts here. You can subscribe to all the posts here.

Today’s post is from Jenelle D’Alessandro. Jenelle currently lives in southern California. She is about to graduate from Fuller Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Global Leadership, and an M.A  in Theology.  Jenelle is included in this series because she has an incredible ability to be theological and creative at the same time. It is something I aspire after but she can do that so naturally.

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I think it is cute that Tyler asked me to send a contribution towards this thick topic on the eve of my very last class at Seminary. My years at Fuller have taught me much, but alas, I still cannot answer the awful questions of God’s Sovereignty. In some ways I am waking up with more proverbial questions than answers. And that is alright.

The Ancients used to say in vino veritas. There is truth in wine. What is true for wine is even more true for the red violence of rejection, abandonment, and any number of unhealed human wounds.

Here’s what I really think about God’s Sovereignty: we can pontificate all we want when it is sunny outside, when all feels right with the world. What we really believe about God gets squeezed out like a heavy orange on a juicer when we are in Pain.

The questions that I think matter the most are the most awful ones to face, because it seems these actually do have answers: What do we really believe about God and his intentions towards us, anyway? Is he mad at us? Is he trustworthy? Is he really Good?

But then, there are the unanswerables. To me, all of the unanswerable questions of God and his Sovereignty feel interconnected with my understanding of aesthetics. Beautiful things don’t always need complete explanations. They just are. We love them for that. And we keep our eyes intently on them.

I understand God and his weird Sovereignty as a painting in a museum that I cannot completely interpret. It is raw. It is enigmatic. It is sometimes frightening. I am standing and looking for weeks, years, centuries, and I am still wondering what it means.

The standing and the waiting is part of prayer. And oh, do we pray.

But, like all quandries of Scripture and Christian conscience, I realize I do have a choice. I must choose what I believe to be God’s deepest essence, even when his Sovereignty seems sometimes frightening and mysterious. When the heavy questions of Pain go unanswered.

When it comes to God’s Sovereignty, what is the Scriptural grid that I read all other confusing passages through? Which verses and declarations do I turn to as a primary magnifying glass?

More and more, my perspectives on faith are being colored by the field of Christian Ethics. Like Glen Stassen and others, I’ve chosen to understand difficult questions of conscience through this first grid: Jesus Christ is Lord. My second grid is this: If you watch Jesus, you’ll understand what the Father is like (John 14:9).

I suppose that means that God is loving, compassionate, and freedom-giving. But if we take the more difficult pictures of Jesus as fair game–and we should–it also means that God is mysterious, confrontational, and at times outright confusing. (i.e. Dear Jesus, why are you fighting with that fig tree when it is clearly not the season for figs?)

In all of the impossible questions of God’s Sovereignty, I walk through the gospels till my legs hurt, but I most assuredly end up is the Psalms. I sit in the Psalms like a hot bath. All of them. Even the cursing ones. That’s where I can find all of the raw beauty and mystery of a person in pain and joy, trying to respond to an impossible painting of God and the way he moves.

(photo by Ian.Crowther)

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  • http://www.aworshipfulheart.typepad.com Jan Owen

    I love the idea that camping out in the Psalms is like soaking in a hot bath. During a painful time in my life where nothing seemed to be moving forward I stayed in Psalm 37 – for about two years I read it again and again and again and again. Thanks so much for your post.

  • http://www.letsputthekettleon.blogspot.com lisafaraway Borden

    I’m with you about the Psalms. I used to think it was bad, like always eating dessert, to be coming back to Psalms all the time. But then I got over it. Psalms are real for life and find so much help there.

  • http://hellosaidjenelle.wordpress.com Jenelle

    @Jan,
    I have had very similar camping experiences with that Psalm. It makes me so happy that in our canon we have 150 chapters of songs/poems for our rescue.

    @Lisafaraway
    “Like always eating dessert.” Ha! I like that image. In some ways it is true.

  • http://gatheringinlight.com c. wess daniels

    Really nice work. I love what your wrote, especially this:

    “We can pontificate all we want when it is sunny outside, when all feels right with the world. What we really believe about God gets squeezed out like a heavy orange on a juicer when we are in Pain.”

    • http://hellosaidjenelle.wordpress.com Jenelle

      @ C. Wess,
      Thanks for your comments.
      I am super honoured that you liked it so much that it made it to the Tumblr. :)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    I’m with C. Wess Daniels. I love that paragraph he mentioned.

    I’m also really glad to see your “grids,” particularly your second one: “If you watch Jesus, you’ll understand what the Father is like.” We were just talking about that with some friends over dinner the other night—how we feel so confused by God at times, even though we really feel like we “get” who Jesus is. And how that disconnect, while common, is problematic. Where does it come from?

    Personally, my issue with God’s sovereignty isn’t rooted in whether I *believe* in it. It gets all messed up in my attempts to *interpret* it, particularly during the most painful times in my life. I want to figure out why I’m going through whatever, so it becomes like a mystery I’m trying to solve. Of course, right when I think I have that “sneaky God” all figured out (OH! So THAT’S what he’s doing!) the framework I’m trying to build begins to crumble. I think I need more soaks in the Psalms. :)

    • http://hellosaidjenelle.wordpress.com Jenelle

      @KT,
      So nice to hear your thoughts. I feel the same way about the problematic disconnect you mentioned. Wish I could’ve been at that dinner!

      My own issues with God’s Sovereignty are the same as your’s, I think I just didn’t clarify it enough. What I meant by problems of “belief” is that we have trouble interpreting God’s character, and that our belief in that is what affects our interpretation of his difficult Sovereignty. Does that make sense?

      I’m about to take my last Final exam at Seminary so my mind is all over the place :)

  • http://karenzach.com karen

    Being a parent has helped craft a comfortable image of God’s sovereignty. There are times when I know exactly what my kids are going to do and I have a glimpse of how those decisions will either help them or harm them. Still, there is nothing I can do to make them choose the healthy way. The choice is theirs. I’m around to advise, if they seek it, but if they don’t, well, all I can do is standby and watch and hope that something good will come from it all.

    • http://hellosaidjenelle.wordpress.com Jenelle

      @Karen
      I love your perspective as a parent! I am not one of those. Your images of mother-guide make a lot of sense to me, though.

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