I continue to be perplexed by the subtleties of the will of God. That’s probably a bad sentence to start on, but the other openers I thought of really weren’t much better.
I’ve just finished reading, at a friend’s request, a book on finding the will of God, and why you shouldn’t. It’s literally titled Finding the Will of God: a Pagan Notion? by Bruce Waltke. But it’s not nearly so bad as it sounds. He’s mostly against something he calls Christian divination – that practice of fumbling about looking for cryptological Providential hints God might have hidden concerning any major decisions – which admittedly sounds more like perusing the horoscopes than any faithful pursuit of God’s plan for your life. He also seems to be against asking God to communicate directly to you about your plans (a point on which I differ), mostly I think because he believes God does that relatively infrequently, and only on His own schedule.
The odd thing has been that, as Waltke pounds out his method of Biblically and theologically ciphering the will of God, he keeps undermining himself. And I don’t mean that he makes arguments I don’t like to support positions I don’t care for. I mean that, in the process of making a point with which I expect to agree, he makes frequent use of non sequitur and choppy reasoning. So by the time he gets to the finale of a point where I expected to agree with him 100%, he’s so bungled it that I end up suspicious of myself for intending to agree with him. It’s made it really difficult to finish the book. But finish I did, all the while dreaming of writing my own book, which says all the things he said, only… better, and in the right order.
Then I turn to the last chapter, an afterward, and everything changes. It’s like Waltke was wearing this mask of the pop-theology pundit, but it wasn’t a very good mask, so it kept distorting his voice and making his lips fumble as they tried to fit around this little hole that wasn’t quite where it was supposed to be. In the afterward, he slips off the mask and becomes Waltke the Biblical theologian again. He’s talking about the noetic effects of sin, and quoting Calvin and Cornelius Van Til, and harping on the need for the active, present work of the Holy Spirit when trying to interpret the Bible… and amazingly, he was cogent! His arguments made sense, and more – they were persuasive! Even as I was reading about the need to align spirituality with Biblical exegesis, the Spirit was burning within me. I was near to jumping out of my chair as my heart filled with a longing to sit around doing theology all day long.
Oh yeah, and I want to go back to seminary. In case you didn’t know that.
Which leads to the question of “finding” God’s will. Waltke is right on this point at least: Some 80 percent of God’s will for every individual Christian’s life is laid out pretty clearly in Scripture, and at least another 17 can be made up from the talents he gives us, the (Biblically formed) longings of our hearts, and His providential direction. It’s that last pesky 3% that can be so vexing.
I used to have a favorite phrase I’d throw out when I was frustrated with the plot of my life: “God, you lead like a drunken man.” But I think I’m starting to come around on this one. There’s a certain type of fishing lure that is designed with a huge bill at the front of it to catch the water. As you reel the lure in, the bill catches the water and swivels awkwardly against it. The result for the fisherman is the maximum amount of flashing about to catch the attention of a fish. He stands at one point and pulls a straight string. But the lure swings frantically from one side to another, resulting in a coverage of the maximum volume of water. If you reel too quickly, the lure even creates a big frothy mess as it breaks the surface of the water.
I’m starting to think that my disposition is like that lure. It isn’t that God leads like a drunken man, but I follow like one. He pulls a straight line, and I follow frantically at oblique angles. I haven’t yet decided whether that disposition is in need of reforming, but I have gotten frustrated with the big frothy mess.
This is where I continue to be perplexed. I have a lot of confidence about the plan of God for my life and for my family, and it currently involves a great deal of waiting, followed by a lot of running around. I haven’t really been content with either of those options and I’ve been starting to take up that “drunken man” complaint. But every so often, God in his graciousness chooses to pry open my mind a bit and give me some perspective. Usually when this happens, because of the way I’m wired, it comes to me in a semi-mystical sort of experience. In a brief flash, I saw a glimpse of what God was working in my family in this season, and I’ve wasted a lot of time tonight trying to write a synopsis of something I didn’t really understand. You don’t “get” the purposes of God in a brief mental flash.
Nevertheless, in addition to all the cool connections that I keep trying to find a metaphor for, I was struck with a sense of how God works for maturity in us for the purpose of his glory. And I was reminded that in Greek and Hebrew thought, “glory” has more to do with heft than brightness. There’s a connection between maturity and the ability to bear (both senses) His glory.
The answer to the frothy mess, at least in fishing, is weight.