“Goatheads hurt. Why did God make goatheads?” asked my son as he walked around our front yard in his socks. He wasn’t referring to a goat’s head but to a thorny sticker.
At the age of five he had conceived “the problem of evil.” I was ecstatic realizing that I had just saved thousands of dollars! He wouldn’t have to get a degree in philosophy to conceive this question or comprehend an answer.
“Do you know what a goathead is?”
“A goathead is a seed with thorns growing out of it. When an animal or person walks by, the thorns stick to them and the seed is carried away to fall away from the parent plant so that it can grow somewhere else.”
In this way the plant had figured out a way to reduce competition for resources.
“We think that goathead’s are bad because it hurts us, but it is a good thing because a new plant can grow.”
It’s all in perspective isn’t it? He considered it bad because it affected him personally and because he didn’t have enough information by which to put things into perspective.
Of course, evil and suffering come in a range on expressions—much more severe.
Thinking back to a decade previous, I had been in a period of heavy musing and flux. Suffering concerned me greatly. Then an agnostic, my mind reeled as I considered the suffering of my people, the Jews. So much, so terrible, so often, oi vey! What is one to conclude?
I concluded that if there is no God then it was all guaranteed to have been for nothing—no greater meaning or purpose except for the enjoyment of the evil doers and, most importantly, no redemption.
No redemption, only suffering.
While perhaps not “answering our questions” about evil and suffering I came to consider that redemption may be the missing bit of information—it was the goathead’s greater purpose.
I realized that if there was a redeemer there was at least hope, hope for fuller understanding (at some point), hope for meaning, hope for justice, hope for redemption itself.
I had heard about this Jesus character who, although being Jewish himself, was my enemy, right? He was a goyim pagan religious character, right?
I slowly went through the stages of shock, from anger to the eventual acceptance, in realizing that Jesus, this forboden character, was the Messiah—the ultimate redeemer.
Studying the Rabbinic writings I found that virtually his entire life can be reconstructed from the Rabbinic texts. Even those written after his time expected the Messiah to be as he was as they drew inferences from the Tanakh.
As unlikely, and problematic, as it was, I found that Jesus is the Messiah, the ultimate redeemer, the one who saves us from meaningless evil and the rest of the story about a goathead that hurts.