I love sitting at fast food restaurants and listening to other conversations around me. This past week, I was at In and Out, relishing and inhaling an animal style #2 meal, with a side of fries (Martin Luther once said, "If you are going to sin, sin boldly..."). Next to me are a couple of young guys in their 20's, having a conversation that I won't soon forget. I will try to relate it to you as it reached my own ears, in between the gastronomic bliss of an In and Out burger...
"So, I am dating this girl, and I don't know if I should stay with her." "Oh really, why not?" "Well, I don't know, but I do know that God has shown me that I should stay with her..." "Ok, great." "Yeah, things weren't going well, but I know that God's plans are that I stay with her." "Good." "Yeah, so my work is going well, but my boss is putting more pressure on me to work." "Great" "Yeah, but God told me I need to be more in your face with my boss." "Great". "Yeah, so, God is using all of these things to teach me something. "Oh really, what?" "God wants me to do great things for him." "How do you know that?" "Well, God is using these things to make me stronger." "How do you know?" "It's just the way God works."
You get the gist...
Now, here's the thing. While I was really happy for the effusive faith of the guy that I was listening to, and the way he was relating his life and how it worked so seamlessly together with God's eternal plans, it was all I could do not to walk up to him and say; "Excuse me, you don't know me, I am a pastor, and I am really happy that you have such a faith. However, can I teach you a word that I think may help you?...it's MAYBE. MAYBE God has shown you, MAYBE God told you something, MAYBE God is using all of these things to teach you something, MAYBE God wants you to do something. MAYBE you know the way God works...
I didn't interrupt my lunch to have this conversation, because I'm basically a wimp when it comes to these kinds of confrontational questions, and because my animal style burger with extra sauce was exceptionally sumptuous.
One of the things I love so much about the way God works in the lives of the hundreds of different characters in the Bible is the ever present existence of the concept of MAYBE. When Eli is in the temple and he hears a voice, he doesn't automatically assume that it is God's voice which he hears it out of the recesses of nowhere. Actually, he thinks that it is uncle's voice. "Eli, Eli," says the Lord. Eli pauses. He goes to visit his uncle and after his uncle's prodding, decides that it actually is God's voice in his life. "Here I am Lord, your servant is listening..."
When Job is wracked with abject loss and pain, he doesn't automatically assume that it is God that is punishing him. He waits, and considers. Even though Job's friends all come to him and say, "You are dishonoring God, and that is why God is punishing you," Job is not sure. Job turns his query and complaint to God and says, "Dear God, if only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on a scales, it would surely outweigh all the sands of the seas..." (Job 6:2)
While all good things in this life, we are told by the prophets, all come from God, there are actually a whole penumbra of causes of things that are not from God:
* Our Own Actions
* The Human Struggle
* The Evil One
Not all sickness is caused by God. Not all tornadoes are caused by God. Not all break-ups are God's doing. Not all firings, promotions, melt downs, pontifications, thoughts, mistakes, salary increases, car crashes, computer glitches, or parking meter expirations are caused by God.
I'm sorry if this blog post sounds a bit cynical, if not grumpy-old-manish. But I really believe that for all faith followers, the word MAYBE might add a degree of humility and realism to the process of discerning God's will. Then, when God actually does act. When He affirms that he actually is doing something, we can be all the more impressed and awe inspired.
All for Now,