Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Living Out God’s Plan
How do you reconcile a belief that God has a plan with the apparent random cruelty of life in this world? An old question, and you need to think it over and find your own answer. Lately I have been trying to be more conscious of, and grateful for, the gifts and graces that have come to me. From that perspective, I am blessed. I have loving friends and family, and I recently learned that I have a heart that is healthier than I thought, so I can expect a few more years before shuffling off this mortal coil. Of course that expectation is tempered with the awareness that you never know, but I remember the wisdom of Nikos Kazantzakis, as spoken by his character Zorba the Greek. I can’t remember the exact words, but the meaning was, “Live each day as if you are going to live forever, or you are going to die tomorrow.” Either way you choose to look at it, you can find yourself living with an expansiveness, awareness, and generosity that can get lost in the everyday lives we live. So, a little bit more life stretches before me, a little more time to bring my gifts to the world. Thinking about that had me asking questions about God’s plan. Am I spared to live a while longer because God has some purpose for me, or am I simply going to spend the time I have left doing, as nearly as I can discern, God’s will? How you answer that sort of question depends on how you perceive God – is God an intelligent being, a God created in our image, who thinks and acts for reasons that are dictated by an overall scheme? Or is God an intelligence that animates us and leaves us to work out our own destinies? Or, as in some belief systems, are we here to work out some ongoing karma, making up for the mistakes of past lives, learning new lessons for the next life? Long ago I had to get used to the shocking idea that God is not an old guy in the sky with a beard. Mind you, if I die and am confronted by an old guy in the sky with a beard, will my face be red. That old guy image is how we tend to envision God in our Christian –based culture. I realized I had to get over that idea, but then, what does God look like? I don’t know. I tend to believe that when we look at each other, we are looking at God. When we marvel at the beauty of creation, we are looking at God. When an orca leaps in Dalco Passage – yup, God. But then, what about the other things? Anyone who has been paying attention to what is going on in the world can grasp the difficulty of seeing God in beheadings, random shootings in public places, car wrecks, and of course, Ebola. When I see those things, I try to perceive God not as the perpetrator of atrocities, disasters, and horrible diseases (AIDS, anyone?), but as the source of grace to those who suffer. Are all victims aware of God’s grace? I am certain they are not. A lot of people claim they don’t believe in God because of all the pain and truly horrible things he allows to happen. This is tricky, blaming the God you don’t believe in for the world’s troubles, but still a popular stance. Allow me to introduce the concept of Satan, who is no more a red guy with horns, a pointy tail, and a van dyke beard than God is the old guy in the sky. These words, these characters, God and Satan, are shorthand symbols for the good and the evil they represent. There is evil in the world. We see it and hear of it every day, in wars and racism, hunger and disease (trying to remember the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, another shorthand symbol). If you take these symbolic beings literally, and expect them to think and feel and act like you, which is, again, creating God (and Satan) in your own image, you can go wrong. You can make heartless mistakes like telling people with cancer that it is their own fault because they didn’t pray enough, for example. You might think you know exactly what and who God is, and what he (usually) is doing, and what the heavenly consequences of earthly behavior are. You might think like that. With all due respect, that is not what I believe. I believe that God is with us when we do chemotherapy, when our heads are being cut off, when our wasted bodies are too weak to move. I believe that God speaks to us through friends who give us rides and bring us meals when we’re too sick and tired to cook. I believe that God works through the workers who try to make the dying more comfortable. I believe that God’s plan, whatever it is, is too big, too far reaching, for me to see. Either that or there’s no plan. And I don’t know the answer to that, so I have to have faith. My faith is in what is true, what is kind, what is real. My faith is in the living God, who lives in us. I believe that when God gives us gifts, we are obliged to bring our gifts to the world, if we can, so I write, and I sing, and I listen to people, and I pray. That is how I reconcile myself with the cruelty of this world, that is how I try to live out God’s plan, whatever it is. That’s my answer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to tune my guitar and sing a little. Blessings, love, grace and peace, be with you all.