Monday, January 28, 2013

Don't you dare pull my strings: A rant about destiny

Expectant puppets. Photo by msoe, flickr

"It's time I share the news," my fellow choir member said during practice a couple weeks ago. "I'm taking a new job ... and I'm moving to the Midwest."

We all started oohing and aahing and crowding around her, asking what she'd be doing, inquiring if she knew anyone out there, probing about how the pending change was affecting her. She explained it was the right career step for her and that she'd prayed deeply about it.

"I'm just along for the ride!" she said. "God's pulling all the strings."

Everyone nodded in total agreement. Except me, who looked at her as if she'd suggested she was going to move her belongings across state lines via unicycle.

God's pulling all the strings. Her phrase has been driving me bonkers for two solid weeks. Why? Because it smacks of predestination -- the doctrine that God, because He knows everything and is always right, has "appointed and ordained" everything that's ever happened and will happen for the rest of time, and thus by extension knows who's reaching salvation and who's not.

Then I start down the path of thinking about free will -- the doctrine that God created us as rational creatures who "initiate and control" (read: choose) our own actions and are responsible for those decisions and their consequences, in the supreme hope that we'd seek Him (read: good) above all else.

And then there's a mind-bending middle ground where God knows what we're going to choose but leaves us free to choose it anyway. (Aggravatingly circular example here.)

[Here, incidentally, is where I throw up my hands and screech, why the hell are any of us presuming to know what God does or doesn't know? Is He sitting on a fluffy cloud right now chuckling about how I was predestined to write a post about predestination? Doesn't he have much, MUCH bigger fish to fry? Like, I don't know, war?]

But back to my fellow singer for a moment. She was already considering the new job. She was actively reflecting on what her best next step might be. She was taking into account her dreams, her interests, and her potential calling. So to say only that "God's pulling all the strings" ... doesn't that write off the intense effort, thought, and discernment she put into this decision too?

Discernment. For me, that's the lynch pin in this armchair-theology cluster of a post. No matter what the "truth" is, no matter which doctrine will prove correct when we arrive at the pearly gates, she made a conscious, heartfelt effort to seek out God and ask how she might best serve the world. That's faith right there, because she could have hated hearing the answer. But she asked anyway, and I think she deserves credit for that because it is really. damn. HARD.

At the end of the day, I believe what God wants from us the most is just to say hi, check in, and ask. What we do from there is up to us. We can accept or reject, adjust or rebel. But the common thread is action, because faith -- a dynamic, sincere, responsible faith -- requires us to participate in our own destiny.

Prayer #239: Destiny's Child

If the Calvinists are to be believed, then we are all riding along in one big Driver's Ed vehicle where we think we have control of the car, but really the instructor can hit the breaks from the passenger side at any point.

It's not that I can't do this alone. (Though let's be honest -- I probably can't.) It's more that I shouldn't do it alone. So I won't. Because even if You do know where I'm ending up, I still have no clue what's coming, so we might as well put the high beams on together.

Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:46 PM

    On this post I think of two words: responsibility and absolution...which lead me to think of the strings as a metaphor for claiming, ceding, and seeking out power. Discovering where we place our power and what activates our empowerment is a unique act and journey for everyone. I think it is a journey that requires a lot of introspection, extroversion, and the wisdom to discern which is appropriate when. Experience testing one’s own parameters, while remaining faithful that through the experience of searching (and potentially failing---or more dangerous, succeeding and becoming complacent) we are ultimately directed towards the life we find worthy, or the life we find lacking, on a daily and even hourly basis…The pitfalls seem to be in having too little regard for how much you can and cannot do by yourself; conversely, having too much regard for what can or cannot be done for you by the grace of God.

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