This book by G.K. Chesterton really is tremendous. I'm not sure if I got it the first time around, or the second, or the third, even with the very competent help of my Western Classics professor, Dr. Strait.
However, I finished rereading it just yesterday, and it became so very obvious to me what it was that Chesterton was getting at-- that God is so very big that one rarely gets a full view of Him, and most times what one sees most clearly is the back of Him, which is to say we see Him indirectly, through nature and through human relationships. And sometimes that reality is so difficult to look at, so suffused with suffering and pain, that we begin to believe that's all there is, and goodness must be an illusion.
But at the same time, when we do finally get around to the Front, and we look into the face of God, He is so very good, so very loving, so wonderfully beyond any dream we could have created in our finite minds, that the evil that exists in the world comes to the point of seeming, just for a moment, illusory, or like a cruel game that we have no choice but to watch play out before our eyes.
The difficulty is that both the Good and the Evil are very real and very present. Somewhere in our gut, we know this, and in our desperate attempts to work against the Evil, we often end up fighting each other, seeing devils everywhere, and nowhere. We find when we get right down to Reality, though, that God is not only at the beginning, commissioning and exhorting us to fight whatever evil we can, whensoever we can, by whatever means we can, but He is also in the middle of it, and cannot be ravaged by it as we are. And so He can lead us on through it, by whatever magnificent or ridiculous path He chooses, out the other side, further up and further in to His Goodness which is Paradise.
I found myself on the point of tears listening as Syme, the hero, says, "When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the back is only a jest. Bad is so bad that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good that we feel certain that evil could be explained... Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front--"
Dear God, yes. If we could only get around front.