“You are more powerful than you know; you are beautiful just as you are.” ~ Melissa Etheridge

Hi all,

As I was working on a story, the idea for a new feature popped into my head: Answering the Unanswerable.  Unlike other Q and A based features that we've had on JABB a la "Ask a JABB Co-Creator," there aren't definitive answers.  All I can do is theorize.  So that's what I'm going to do.  If you have an unanswerable question left over from TBAA or a Dyeland story, please let me know.  Or if you have an alternative suggested non-answer to a question you see here and would like to share it, please let me know that, too.  If you'd like, I'll even put it in a future newsletter.

Anyway, we'll test this out and see how it goes!

God bless,

Answering the Unanswerable: Part One

So before I get into this, I think it's only right to share a little bit of information about what's going to inform my answers.  Firstly, I was raised Catholic though with assorted Protestant influences from within my family.  C.S. Lewis is one of my very favorite authors and his writing was informed by his Anglican faith so that's a hefty influence.  I received seventeen years of Catholic education, including a B.A. degree in Theology from a Catholic university.  But I'd urge everyone to remember that was nearly twenty years ago.  So nothing about my answers should be interpreted as any sort of official stance of Catholicism or even just Christianity in general.  Could be, could not be.  I'll quote the Bible and other religious texts as seems appropriate to me but, as always, my interpretation of them is far from the only one.  If any of these questions interest you, I'd urge you to do your own digging.  And here we go...

Question: If God knows everything, why does He send Andrew on assignments where the outcome is unknown to Andrew?  Like why put Andrew through the angst of trying to reach John Wilkes Booth if God knew that he was going to inevitably kill President Lincoln?  Andrew wasn't going to change the outcome so why allow him to think he could knowing he would then carry the guilt of not succeeding?

Attempted answer: Firstly, the episode "Beautiful Dreamer" is an episode that I love but which also contains one of my least favorite moments in TBAA.  Tess basically says that JWB went to Hell.  Look, I have no fondness for the man.  But I also have no idea what his final moments were like and what he and his Creator might have spoken of.  I think it's folly for humans to assume that we know the moment when spiritual reckoning becomes impossible.  We still argue about when physical death actually happens!  We don't know if, just before his true death, JWB repented.  And because he is an actual person and not a creation of Martha Williamson and Co., I think it's inappropriate to say he went to Hell.  We have no idea.  So...  Let's pretend that line from Tess doesn't exist.  Without it, there's still a possibility that when JWB was still alive but unable to speak, Andrew's words began to sink in and he accepted that he'd sinned and sought forgiveness from God.  Just because Andrew and the soldiers couldn't hear him, that doesn't mean God couldn't.  So it's possible that putting Andrew through that angst actually led to redeeming a lost soul which I think Andrew would agree made it worthwhile.

Now let's consider that Tess' line is accurate.  If fictionalized JWB protested his fate, I think his argument becomes weaker when someone can say "Look, God sent you a literal angel to help you see the truth but you would not listen.  You had every opportunity to back out.  You didn't.  This is on you, man."  I think of it as being similar to a court case.  It would be absolutely unfair to try someone without allowing them to have a defense attorney.  Having an attorney doesn't mean they'll be found innocent.  But (barring some sort of malfeasance) it does mean they were given a fair trial.  They may still not like the outcome but they can't say they were denied counsel.  In this case, Andrew might still feel like he failed and that's unfortunate.  But I think someone who cares could easily lay out how his good work was still important even if it didn't give him the outcome he wanted.  Hopefully that would take some of the sting away.

I think an argument could also be made that, regardless of the outcome for JWB, the assignment allowed Andrew to stretch and improve his skills as an angel.  So even though it was frustrating and sad, it did help him develop as an angel and that's ultimately a positive.  He even got promoted directly after this case.

Now...  All of this begs the question of why God didn't just explain "Look, JWB is gonna do what he's gonna do and he will kill the President but because of free will, we have to give him every opportunity to change.  So, Andrew, please do your best."  Knowing there was no way he was going to change JWB's mind, Andrew might have seen his role as more perfunctory and, thus, not been as distressed when he "failed" because he knew from the get-go that he was not going to change the man's mind.  But... angels may be near perfect and Andrew especially so.  But they're not perfect.  I think if they 100% knew the outcome of something, they may not bring the same passion and emotion to their work which would make their jobs a lot less fulfilling. 

And now leaving the TBAA world to drift into the Dyelandverse, I think it's vital that Andrew gets promoted to AOD directly after this assignment.  While I suppose he could have gotten promoted at any other point, this is the assignment that impressed God enough for Him to grant Andrew the promotion to AOD.  Fast forward to 2000 and Andrew meets JenniAnn and her friends.  I think it's safe to say that Andrew-the-AOD was more alluring to JenniAnn than Andrew-the-caseworker would have been.  She was seventeen.  Coolness mattered then.  And AOD is a much cooler sounding title than caseworker.  Plus, there's that whole rich "Death and the Maiden" archetype that JenniAnn was very tuned into.  As an adult, she builds a relationship with Andrew based on his personality and actual self... not a title.  So it's not accurate to say she fell in love with Andrew because of him being an AOD.  But it certainly helped get her attention and, without that, who knows how their lives may have changed.  Is it possible that had Andrew not gotten promoted to AOD, JenniAnn would have married and built a life with someone else?  I think so.  And God would know that.  So quite possibly, God gave Andrew a seemingly doomed assignment just because the ripple effect would be that Andrew-the-AOD would wind up in Dyeland where he'd meet JenniAnn who would eventually fall in love with him and build a family with him.  We see something like this in the story of Joseph who ultimately concludes "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).  What was originally an extremely negative experience (getting sold into slavery by his own brothers) leads to countless people being saved from starvation and Joseph meeting his wife and having children with her.  If we could go back to 1865 and ask Andrew if he would prefer to skip out on a heartbreaking assignment with JWB but at the cost of losing his anam cara and children, I think we all know that the Andrew of the Dyelandverse would say "No...  Give me the assignment."  And God would know that.

This is just one example of the many times angels had "it could go either way" assignments.  And they can be really hard to reckon with.  But I think it's the ripple effect argument that I find most compelling.  As mortals, we can't possibly see what God can see.  It's like He's playing the most complicated game of chess ever.  Only He knows how one seemingly devastating move will reap a series of beneficial moves later.  Andrew would never know how many lives would have been altered by his not becoming an AOD in 1865.  But God knows and He made the move He did because of knowing that.  It may not help Andrew in the moment.  He still felt sad and disappointed in himself.  But, eventually, I think he came to understand that everything happened as it needed to.

State of the Stories

And now for what has, unfortunately, become a recurring feature albeit one not named til now: an update on how Dyeland stories are going given the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Firstly, while the pandemic is a lot to blame for the lack of movement with the stories I'd planned, I also remain very busy with housework.  I've taken this week off work in hopes of getting on-track with that so I can focus on writing.  Here's hoping that goes well!

Secondly... it's totally the pandemic.  Both of the big stories I have planned involve crowds.  Given I've established that Andrew and JenniAnn are very cautious due to her compromised health, I have to put off their anam cara ceremony story until I can believe they would agree to a big party.  I'm hoping for late October on that but who knows with the breakthrough cases with Delta.  At least in that case I can cite that all the Friends have been vaccinated and did rapid tests and *maybe* have them still gather with some precautionary measures.  But...

The grand re-opening of St. Genesius' Community Theatre and the return of Joshua to the stage in Jesus Christ Superstar is trickier.  Because then we're talking about the public.  And no one would want to put anyone at risk.  And, no, I'm not even considering having Joshua just go around healing nascent COVID cases.  Broadway is starting to re-open so I'll pay attention to that.  So long as nothing goes completely awry, I'll probably have the Friends put on their annual Christmas revue as normal and then move into Jesus Christ Superstar preparations.  If things do get really bad...  Honestly, I'll probably still do the JCS story but shift it to them rehearsing for a no-audience production that's going to be aired on TV or something like that. 

Once this week is over and my house is, hopefully, in at least something approaching order, I hope to write a handful of short stories to bide the time.  We'll see!

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for providing some light at the end of this house cleaning tunnel.

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