The Will of God

The One

There was a boy who loved his father. He loved him so much and wanted to be just like him. Not only was the father all powerful, all wise, and all good, at least in the eyes of the boy, but the father always told the son what to do and the best decisions to make. The boy had a wonderful childhood. Anytime he came to a tough decision he simply ran to his father, who hugged him tightly, and told him exactly which road to take. The boy was so comforted knowing that it was not his decision but his father’s. He was glad to give up the responsibility for his life, placing it in the hands of someone who knew so much better. When the boy was a man, his father became ill. And fear struck. I am lost without my father. I cannot make a single decision without his clear direction. And in that moment came the most devastating revelation: he was nothing like the father. He was neither wise, nor good, nor powerful. The father recovered, but the son never did.

The Other

There was another boy who loved his father. He loved him so much and wanted to be just like him. The father was all powerful, all wise, and all good, at least in the eyes of the boy, but it was often frustrating to be the son. It was difficult to understand why his father acted in the ways that he did. When the son would ask (I admit, sometimes he demanded) for the best path to take, the father would most often shrug his shoulders, say “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” and remind him of the letter.

You see, the father had written a letter to the son when he was a baby, laying out all the wonderful things the father had done for strangers, nations, kingdoms. He wrote about sacrifices he had made to bring the son into the world. He wrote about who he was: his personality, likes, and dislikes. It was a biography of the tallest order.

And so, when the boy would come to him with a decision to make, a crossroads in life, the father would simply remind him of the letter, saying “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” How arrogant. How frustrating. This was such a different world. “I don’t want to know how he acted, so long ago. I want to know right now what I should do,” the boy would often say.

After reading the letter over and over again, searching for the answer to the question that lay before him, the son would slam it shut in disgust and say, “I guess I will just have to make a decision.” And so he did. But the father was never far behind.

When the boy was a man, his father became ill. And he asked his father, “Before you die, I need to know one thing. Why did you never tell me what to do? Why did you never give me a clear answer to my questions? Why did you give me nothing when I most needed your direction?”

His father replied, “Any father who gives his son the answers robs him of the gift of the struggle. There is no one who becomes strong physically by having someone lift weights on his behalf. To desire to be like me without desiring to suffer is a contradiction. It cannot be done. Forcing you to take responsibility for your own life is the spiritual exercise required to be like me.”

The son thought, and said, “But why risk it? I could have made all the wrong decisions!”

The father chided the son, “Did you not read the letter? Do you not remember who your father is? You have a father who will always be with you, even to the end of the age. The balance between Love and Power does not stop you from making mistakes, it redeems them. The answer to your questions are never found in the letter, they are only found in the reading of the letter.”

It was then that the son understood. And resentment melted away and was replaced by inestimable gratitude. And the father remained with the son, even to the end of the age.

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9 responses to “The Will of God

  1. Indeed. I was wrestling with some things today related to this idea, sat down to write (or right!) and this is what came out. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • You’re welcome! I love stories and metaphors – I was thinking more on your particular creation over the evening and I wonder if it might inadvertently appear to promote a “dictation theory” and/or “the Bible is a manual” view of Scripture? I know you don’t probably don’t hold either of those views but that could be easily taken from this story. But what I really love is the sense behind the story and for me, those aforementioned details don’t detract from what you are getting at!

      “But why risk it? I could have made all the wrong decisions!” – I wonder this at God too. Why aren’t You more direct with us?!?! We would screw-up way less!!! Pervasive interpretive pluralism (a la Christian Smith) can hardly be blamed on us… It’s not our fault this is what we were given to work with!

      This is slightly off topic, maybe you can track with how I ended up thinking of this. I stumbled across an NT Wright interview and one of the questions is on why sin matters and he has this great line, “I think God must be grieving over our lost possibilities, while by his Spirit, he is giving us the energy we need to make the right decisions.” – I think I ended up there from your line on “redeeming mistakes”.
      (http://ihatefurelise.blogspot.com/2011/10/nt-wright-on-why-sin-matters.html)

      • Yes, you ran across one of the weaknesses of metaphor, they always fall down at some points. I certainly did not mean for it to promote a “Bible is a manual” view since my point is that there are no answers in the Bible, there is only a story. The answer is a person not a book. I didn’t even think about dictation since I that wasn’t what I was wrestling with today, but perhaps you’re right.

        I absolutely see how you ended up with the Wright quote and I love the connections. Possibility is a very strong and important word to the Christian.

  2. Mmm… I think I misunderstood what you meant by “The answer to your questions are never found in the letter, they are only found in the reading of the letter” – I suppose I got distracted by the word “answer”. I occurs to me that this seems like a very Barthian statement – in that the inspiration lies in the reading of the text rather than the text itself (something I often toy with in my mind as a viable option aside from first needing to address the problem of asking to what you tether your personal inspiration while you read). Was that your intent?

    • Yeah, that could have been ambiguous (which is what I love about writing stories). The context is about finding God’s will. My point is that you will never find the “answer” to “What should I do in this situation” in the Scriptures but that “What should I do in this situation” isn’t the right question. The true “answer” is found in struggling with the letter and with life – the journey is the answer.

      But as a side note I am sympathetic to much of Barth, inasmuch as I actually know what systematic theology even is these days.

  3. Well, wasn’t that just a lovely demonstration of both the awesome power and unfortunate downfall of “story” – a reader can get something great (or not great) out of it, but it’s not often what the author intended! Now you know a little of how Rob Bell (not to be cliche) must feel. If you choose story or “questions” over direct doctrinal statements and textbook-style writing, you open yourself both to the deep power of story to impact readers and the inevitable readings that result in conclusions nowhere near what you intended. It appears that God must be willing to take that risk too by giving us our narrative in the form He inspired (however that occurred or is occurring).

    Thanks for using story to wrestle with the impossible question of “God’s will”. I have events in my life that seem so “just right” and “can’t be a coincidence” that I think he must be in every detail and other events where I think “God is totally hands-off here!”. It’s almost like he won’t let me pigeon-hole him….hmmm… : P

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