by Dorian Speed
When Jennifer first asked me to write a guest post, I was honored. And I knew just the word to choose: “Will.”
About five minutes later, the ramifications of this choice hit me hard. “WHY COULDN’T I HAVE PICKED ‘AND?'” I asked the heavens, rhetorically.
I mean — this simple word (a four-letter word, at that) encompasses so many of the essential debates within Christianity. Are we predestined for salvation? Does God cause our suffering? Why do some people receive answers to their prayers while others go apparently unheeded? If our original sin was a response to external temptation, where did Satan get the idea to rebel against God? And why do mosquitoes exist?
That kind of thing.
I decided to narrow my scope; to focus on Jennifer’s Will for This Guest Post, rather than trying to do a One-Stop Shop for Answers About God’s Will. Pretty sure Jennifer willed for me to turn this post in on time and for it to not exceed 20 bazillion words, for starters. So I’m going to neglect some of the philosophical questions about God’s Will and play a little something I like to call “The Lord’s Will: Ur Doing It Wrong.”
Well – YOU are probably doing a bang-up job of living your life in accord with God’s Will, but I’ll tell you the various ways in which I myself go astray, so that you can recognize the symptoms in your friends and family.
1. “Thy Will Be Done, and please grant me the humility to accept with grace the awesome, unlimited success, adulation, and happiness you have clearly plotted out for me over a three to five-year period, as outlined in a series of plans and action items I have mentally tabulated.”
This one’s pretty much hardwired in my brain: the constant making of plans and the expectation that all will proceed accordingly, for the greater glory of Me, I mean, God. Of course, right there in Isaiah 55, he tells us, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, ” but I still find myself saying, “Okay, but if I put my plan inside a really nice report cover, you’ll sign off on it, right?”
And then, when it becomes apparent that I really am not going to get everything I’ve planned for, I stomp out of the room, and go with:
2. “Clearly, Lord, you are going to do whatever you want, so I am just not even going to talk to you about what’s going on in my life, Thy Will Be Done.”
This is sort of the flip side to #1. When I’m mad that things aren’t working out according to My Plan, I take the extremely mature approach of giving the Lord the silent treatment, as it were.
I’m being flippant, but really this has been a huge struggle for me. At various points in my life, when Stuff Went Down, so to speak, I found myself at a loss for understanding why things weren’t working out for the best — at least, “the best” as I understood it. I’d think of St. Teresa of Avila, having been thrown from her horse alongside a river, telling God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.” I fashioned myself in the same predicament.
And, of course, looking back, I can see my folly in throwing myself into the pursuit of some lofty goal, pushing aside the costs to my own children and my family life, convinced I was going to Make a Difference and Change the World. Which leads me to…
3. “Thy Will Be Done, Lord, by me as a sole proprietor, charged with the salvation of all humanity…”
Surely it all depends on me! Never mind the housekeeping, there are people out there who need me! There’s no time to lose, Lord! Help me stay strong as I solve the world’s problems! Make arrangements for the laundry!
So…I’m thinking the error here is probably evident, but I’d also like to point out that just because we may have good intentions, and be using our talents for the glory of God – it doesn’t mean that all of our efforts are always going to work out the way we envision.
When we’ve put our heart and our talents into a creative effort or an act of service, it’s tempting to feel betrayed if it doesn’t come to fruition as we had hoped. We may question whether our choices were even God’s will in the first place. Was it because we strayed from his path that we experienced failure and frustration? Hindsight may someday reveal to us how the Lord was at work, bringing good out of the situation – maybe even despite our efforts. But it can be tough to continue to trust in God when it seems like the gifts we’ve offered have gone to waste.
4. “Have fun, Lord, off doing Your Will, don’t mind me while you’re changing the fabric of the universe…”
We can feel like the tiniest speck of dust in comparison to the vastness of Creation – like God isn’t even noticing our little lives, isn’t listening to our prayers.
That gives us lots of time to fear for the future and imagine all of the possibilities that may befall us. Jesus asks us in Luke 12, “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?”
And he doesn’t mean that those details are left to chance, but that God is intimately involved, ever-present, in each of the “small things” in our lives. The Lord isn’t off in some remote corner of the universe or sitting with his feet propped on his desk, surveying us from afar – he is “near to all who call upon (him)” (Psalm 145:18.)
So, now that I’ve examined a small, small subset of the many ways in which I come at understanding God’s Will from all the wrong directions, I’d like to point you towards the exemplar that God Himself provided for us: His own mother.
Mary’s fiat – “Let it be done to me according to your word” – that’s what I strive for, in contemplating God’s will. Her “yes” was not just a single, grand gesture – at every moment, her soul magnified the Lord. And it was by trusting completely; submitting her everything to his will, that she proclaimed his greatness.
I approach this with tiny steps — at the Mom’s Day Away conference, Danielle Bean gave a terrific talk on approaching our day-to-day challenges with the response, “Yes, Lord! What now?” Truly, that’s the only way we can live in harmony with God’s will for our lives — not by focusing on the future and trying to pursue grace at the end of all possible rabbit trails, but by submitting ourselves to Him in the present moment. It means we have to surrender all of our plans, our fears, and our frustrations, but it’s the only way we can genuinely pray: Thy Will Be Done.
What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “Will”?
Dorian Speed has the joint distinction of being one of the funniest people I know, and having the coolest name in the history of the universe. She’s a writer, catechist, former classroom teacher (current homeschool teacher) and WordPress guru. Check out her WordPress guru-ness here, read her blog here, and follow her on Twitter here (but know that I have learned some near-keyboard-ruining lessons about reading her tweets while drinking something).