Sunday, May 25, 2014

Body, Soul, and Spirit (Divine Purpose)

Before we set our goals, I think we should check in with the God of the universe and attempt to determine what is in our best interests. Clearly, a criminal can set the goal of becoming the most powerful drug lord in his city. If he then pursues this goal with ruthless congruence, self-confidence, and generosity in sharing his ill-gotten gains with his gang, members of his community, and the police, he can achieve his goal. But if our desire is to live in harmony with the universe, with what is good, and true, and right, then I believe that asking God in prayer for direction in our life is a good place to start. I believe that if I persevere with patience, eventually a path will become visible in the confusion of life.

I am very uncomfortable with the term “The Will of God” as I have heard it taught in many of the churches I have attended. In my mind, it is a term that is front loaded with all sorts of unpleasant emotional baggage. I have heard over and over, that God has this wonderful plan for my life and if I am not utterly obedient, I will miss the mark and my life will lie in ruins. Those of you who are old enough might remember the television show, Let’s Make a Deal with Monty Hall. On this show the contestants would win really nice prizes, like a new color TV. Then Monty would give them the opportunity to trade what they have for what might be contained in a large box or hidden behind a curtain. Everyone knew that sometimes the prize behind the curtain might be an expensive new car or it might be a pet goat. Sometimes preachers have made me feel like God is Monty Hall, playing a cosmic game of Let’s Make a Deal with my life.

Years ago I realized the will of God doesn’t quite work that way. Consider your own relationship with those you truly love. You want what is best for them. You want to bless them. You want to share your life with them. If you really understand love, you don’t want to control them. You know they are free to find their own path. You might wish that your son would major in physics rather than get a job painting skulls on custom motorcycles, but no matter what path he chooses, in your heart you know your job is to bless him and be a part of his life.

As you make important decisions, where to go to school, what major to study, who to marry, ask God for guidance, but be confident that God is not Monty Hall. If you miss “God’s Perfect Will for My Life,” even if there is such a thing, God will not take away your new car and punish you with a pet goat.

If you never complete your degree and become a wife and a mommy, God still wants to bless you and to be a part of your life.

If you complete your degree in Pre-Med or in English, God still wants to bless you and to be a part of your life.

If you find your way to a research laboratory or to the aforementioned custom motorcycle shop, God still wants to bless you and to be a part of your life.

If someone like me with all my shortcomings and character defects could feel that way about those whom I have truly learned how to love, don’t you think our Heavenly Father might love and care for us in a way that is far beyond any level that I could ever possibly hope to achieve?

I love the story of the Prodigal Son. I studied it in some depth during a week long silent retreat. I learned a lot. I learned I have a bad case of the elder brother. I learned it is not the parable of the prodigal or the parable of the elder brother. It is the parable of the Father, of our Heavenly Father.

I even concocted my own version of that story that takes place in Montgomery County, Maryland during the late 1970s. The father in this story owns three car dealerships in the metropolitan area. He has two sons. The youngest rebels and asks for his share of the businesses. The father takes out a loan to raise enough cash to give the younger son the freedom that he desires. Of course the younger son moves to Miami and blows all the money on cocaine, prostitutes, and fast cars. He ends up in a Florida prison on drug charges. The elder son works 12-16 hours a day to help earn enough money to keep the car dealerships from going under during the recession of 1980. His wife even goes back to work so that the elder son can put more money back into the business. Of course, you know the rest. The younger son is released from prison and returns to beg the father’s forgiveness. The father runs across the parking lot to embrace his wayward son. Later that night when the father is throwing a party at an expensive Italian restaurant to celebrate his son’s return, he notices his eldest son is missing. The father gets in his car and drives around a bit before he finds him at the White Flint dealership, sulking in his office. Of course you know the rest of the story. In my version, like the original, there is a lot of hugging and crying.

Jesus tells us that is the way the Father feels about us, Abba, Father, Daddy. He loves us and is always waiting for an opportunity to run towards us, embrace us, and bless us. He wants to bless us and He wants to be a part of our lives. Because of Jesus we are his sons and his daughters. God is not Monty Hall and our lives are not some sort of a cosmic version of a sadistic game show.

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