I can’t wait until I get to writing about where I see the spirit of Love in my everyday life and how I think that spirit just might be God.
But right now, there are a few things I still have to get off my chest. Or maybe this is the last one (but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you).
I think the notion that gets flippantly bandied about, that God is in control, is one of the most confusing and often cruel beliefs going. What does it even mean? God is in control of what exactly? How do we know?
I’m not going to get into the philosophical debate about the sovereignty of God and free will of man. Throw a dart and you can find volumes about that anywhere. Read them all and you still won’t know. I’m more interested in how we live because of what we believe. Do we abdicate responsibility in our lives or social responsibility because we believe that we are not in control but God is? Do we short circuit the process of wrestling with thoughts or situations and just throw our hands up and say ‘God is in control’? Do we feel guilty grieving because it seems to lack faith in the God who is in control?
I worry about people who face really tough situations, like life threatening illness, or that of their children or spouse, when they look like they have a secret magic card in their pocket and they say ‘it’s ok, God is in control.’ I’m not saying that he isn’t (because I don’t know) or that he won’t miraculously cure them…or whatever…I’m saying that often it seems like a form of denial of what is presently happening. Even more worrying is the underlying, often coupled thought, that if I deny it, if I pretend it isn’t there and that they’re already healed, then the disease won’t actually have any power.
Whatever the tough spot being faced, it seems to me that the first reaction of ‘God is in control’ is a form of denial. When that fades, if it does, what comes next? We’re all telling ourselves a story about what happens to us and how. We’re all framing our lives and the purpose and meaning of life in some way and I know that we all employ denial as a good, sometimes healthy, coping mechanism.
What would you tell people who’ve watched most of their family die of starvation about God’s control of everything? How can we possibly maintain this idea like it’s an orthodox tenet of our faith?
Seatbelt use here in Qatar is a new idea. Many do not use them. Daily we see children standing in the car, playing, jumping over seats, mothers holding their standing infants on their laps in the front seats. I was told that there is a pervasive thought among the Qataris that God is in control of your life and your death and it basically lacks faith to feel such a strong need to use a seatbelt. We (non-Muslims) live in fear of death and we’re not submitted to the will of God; that’s why we fretfully put our seatbelts on.
A good friend recently had major heart surgery. I was telling someone else about this and they said, “Well, God is in control. Ours is not to question ‘why’.”
Really? It isn’t? And where did that idea come from? Is believing in the laws of nature an affront to our faith in God? Is God offended by our questioning? Is he in control of every little thing?
I believe that there are consequences for our actions, both personal (health, relationships, lifestyle, sowing and reaping – known by some as karma) and global (pollution, politics, tolerance, charity). I believe we are all affected by these things and we all live under the same natural laws.
I believe there are some things we can affect and change. I believe we can make a difference. I believe, for example, that if I take care of my health I have a better chance of living a long healthy life. It’s not a guarantee because I live in the same polluted world as everyone else and I have genetics that I’m not in control of but good choices make for better chances.
I believe that if I help someone in need it makes a difference to them and if I don’t help them they suffer more. Can I eradicate poverty and suffering? Of course not. If I help one person, is that a meaningless drop in the bucket? Not to them!
In yesterday’s post I talked about doing what we can do with regard to the inner workings of our lives. Forgiving and loving and dealing with our ego etc. and watching what God does with it. The question of who is in control is likely the wrong question. It’s too simplistic. We’re too self-serving to really think clearly about that. We want to know what’s in it for us, how does it benefit us, how does it get us off the hook or does it give us the secret magic card.
My husband thinks that rather than draw comparisons of kings and subjects, commanders and troops or puppets and puppeteers, our relationship with God should be viewed more like a dance. Two willing partners, one moves and the other responds and vice versa. (I realize there should be a leader in the dance but then you’ve never danced with me…that line is kind of fuzzy and we’ll just let my husband think that sometimes one person leads and sometimes the other person leads…also it works better with the point I’m trying to make).
I believe that God is with us. He doesn’t necessarily manipulate things so that we never feel pain, but he’s with us. He grieves with us and celebrates with us, he holds us when we hurt or feel lonely, he listens when we question.
I believe he prefers honesty to pretending even if the truth is that we’re not remarkable; we’re scared and angry and confused. I believe that when we’re genuine to our vulnerable cores that he informs our souls and our paths.
I believe that when we let our souls be informed by Love and we are finally quiet, all the way to our centre quiet, that he is there and that’s what matters.