This week started out rough. I thought I had an inkling about something very amazing about to happen – but it was going to bring a whole lot of added stress into my life as well. I spent three whole days psyching myself up about it – so much so that I had pretty much accepted it was going to happen and was excited.
I had a moment however on Monday night when I realized I should pray about it. I realized that just because I, personally, wanted this to happen, did not mean it was the best thing in the world for me or my ministry or my family. And that’s kind of what I preached about on Sunday, so I figured I had better take my own advice. or Paul’s advice. whichever.
So… I committed to not only praying about it, but that the next morning I was going to ask the small group at the church to pray with me that God’s will would be done in said situation.
Tuesday morning at 8:45, the news came. It wasn’t going to happen. The thing I had suddenly been excited for wasn’t going to work out. End of story.
(I know I’m being cryptic here… but bear with me… sometimes we can’t tell all of our secrets!)
I wrestle at times with making firm statements about God’s will. John Piper has recieved a lot of flack this past week for claiming that the tornadoes that ripped through the lower midwest and southeast were God’s will. I tend to hesitate when making proclamations about nature. I hesitate when one person who prayed fervently was spared and another who prayed fervently was killed. I do believe that God acts and moves among us. I do believe that God is present with us in every situation. But do sometimes things just happen? Does nature just run its course sometimes? Our sinful decisions have consequences and sometimes we have to blame ourselves rather than God.
But then there are all of these places in the scriptures where God brings out the battering ram and thunder and lightning and seems to lay the smack down. I would not for one minute say that God doesn’t have the power/ability/just reasons to unleash holy terror. Heck, I try to be benevolent and good and sometimes I want to call down a thunderbolt or two upon my youth! (just kidding… I love you guys… most of the time!)
All of that to say, I never know what to do about God’s will. I don’t know when to claim something was God’s will or not. I am not always sure how to discern God’s will.
In our weekly lenten study, I shared that one the greatest tools we have available to us in the Wesleyan tradition are the means of grace: prayer, bible study, christian conferencing, communion, tithing, visiting the sick and in prison, etc… But we have to DO them in a way that really focuses our attention to God. We can’t go through the motions. For an example: When I put my money in the offering plate, I have to say to God – I’m giving this to you… I’m trusting you with it… I’m trusting that you will help me to be faithful with it and all of my resources. It’s not just about doing our “duty” – its about learning to truly depend upon God. It is about aligning ourselves with God’s will.
And I have been trying to do that. I have been trying to trust and pray and listen a whole lot more intentionally lately.
So when I decided Monday night that I truly wanted God’s will to be done… I meant it. And I meant it that I was going to ask others to pray with me. I truly wanted to know God’s will. I wanted that to be the guide for this situation.
And on Tuesday morning… I didn’t like the answer I got.
In other times in my life, I wouldn’t have even thought about God. I would have thought about how dumb the situation was. I would have had a little pity party for myself. But because I was trying so hard to listen, the simple reality of God’s will smacked me upside the head.
I don’t like it. I’m not sure I completely understand. I wish the answer would change. And part of me really does want to say, “kiss my @$$,” and go do my own thing.
But if anything, this time of Lent has taught me, personally, that our lives are not our own. If I want to follow Jesus – I have to follow him all the way. And that means there are some really good things in this world that I don’t need.
Tonight, we sang in worship a really upbeat version of – “I have decided to follow Jesus.” It can be sung SO slow, but Lent has been all about joy, so we just owned it and sang it with some gusto. It was a reminder that I may not like God’s will, but I have decided to follow. I have decided to keep the cross before me. And I’m not turning back. I can do this with God’s help. I truly believe that God will help me. So be it. Amen.