So after thinking about what Steve G. wrote in response to my questions about how God’s will works, I decided to hit him with an example situation. I gave him a hypothetical scenario that is the type of thing that would leave me confused about whether this was God’s will, the devil’s work, or just human error.
Lately I’ve been trying to discern whether I should homeschool. So let’s say I’m driving to a Catholic friend’s house to talk about homeschooling, and on the way there, my car breaks down. There are three ways I could approach this situation if I’m trying to do God’s will:
a) Look at it as God’s will that the car broke down — perhaps he’s trying to show me that homeschooling is not the right path for me or limit my contact with this particular friend;
b) Look at it as a spiritual attack — perhaps the devil is trying to prevent me from being around my Catholic friend and getting more info about homeschooling;
c) Look at it like it’s just a random event, the result of a human error back at the factory, that God had no direct hand in.
…You might be asking the wrong question.
Maybe the real question isn’t what does this mean to my homeschooling decision (maybe something, maybe nothing, how could we know?), but how can THIS incident (the car breaking down) serve God. How can we look to bring good from it?
Maybe, just maybe you really broke down because there is a tow truck driver who is a depressed and has been struggling with faith recently. He is going to come to get your car, and see your bumper sticker that has the name of your church on it, a rosary sitting on the seat, whatever, and he is going to give you an ever so subtle hint that he’s in desperate need of spiritual help. And if you are really looking for God’s will, really looking to see how you can serve and love him, how you can serve and love others, you’ll pick up on it, strike up a conversation, and a relationship might be born that will ultimately lead to this man finding faith. And if you are focused rather on your unrelated question about homeschooling, rather than what does THIS incident mean in and of itself, maybe you’ll miss the hint, miss the chance to help.
Or maybe, you are struggling with patience with the children of late, and what God REALLY wants for you to do in this incident is to take the annoyance and inconvenience of breaking down, and not be short with the wee ones even in that stressful circumstance, so you can grow in the virtues you’ll need when you are homeschooling them.
Obviously I am just pulling these possibilities out of thin air, but I hope you see what I am weakly attempting to get at. If we are really seeking to live moment to moment in God’s will, we won’t be asking what does THIS (car breaking down) mean in regards to THAT (homeschooling). That seems to me too much like trying to read tea leaves. Instead we will be asking what does this mean to my relationship with God and others RIGHT NOW.
So if I were in my best state of mind, my own specific response to the hypothetical you offered would be d) none of the above. My own reaction (again, this is speaking hypothetically as if I were a perfect Christian, which I obviously am not) would be to not really ponder what this meant to my homeschooling, or ‘where’ it came from. Rather to experience that particular moment looking for God in my children, in the tow truck driver, etc. and seeing how I could love and serve Him and them throughout the ordeal.
Then, I’d unhesitatingly reschedule my appointment with my friend. I’d continue reading, learning, and thinking about homeschooling using the gift of reason and intellect that God gave me to make the best decision I can. Likewise, if God wants me to limit my contact with that particular friend, I’ll do so based on my experience with my friend. Is my interaction with them producing good fruits for her and me? For our children? That kind of thing.
And finally, if I totally screw up and make the wrong decision on homeschooling or the friend, it will not be because I misread an unintelligible sign based on my car breaking down, but based on me giving my very best to inform myself and prudently taking into account the good of my spouse, my children and myself. And if I continue asking that ‘big’ question all the way along the line, well, I think that homeschool or not, that will serve them and me better.