Monday, December 02, 2013

God's Self-Disclosure Through Rebecca Trotter

My never-met beloved friend Rebecca Trotter keeps writing well about her life, producing a sort of modern, ongoing Book of Job. Poverty, kids, difficult husband, difficult self, friends & relatives eager to explain what she's been doing all wrong... In her latest piece she looks to be on to something.

The gist: It doesn't matter what she prays, does, says, thinks, believes, feels -- in that God will simply give her what she needs, whether that happens to be bliss, peace, agony, mental anguish, or indigestion. Well, yeah. & no.

In one sense, we wouldn't want it any other way. If we could control God by sacrificing one candy bar in the toaster-oven every full moon, we might really get out of hand. It's a relief to have a fuse between our wishes & what we get, because without one we'd be in serious trouble. At best, we'd be wording our prayers as carefully as contracts with the Devil, lying awake all night wondering what should/shouldn't have gone into the fine print.

In another sense, no! We want to count for something, have power to affect the world somehow, to help and please our friends. We want a handle on our fate, even if that handle is fated to fall off at an inconvenient time. We want the world predictable and controllable to some extent; to be a world and not just a chaos -- not even a benevolent, nurturing chaos. God has accommodated that need as well, putting in all sorts of regularities, tricks we can learn, etc.

Dependable machines are good for what they do; but that's not exactly what we want in our friends. 'Undependable'? Uh, not that either. Do we want God to be the sort of Parent we can push around or manipulate? Do we want God to be inflexible, implacable, a rock we can always count on to be painfully resting on our feet?

It's those thinking minds that make this difficult, trying to fix things-as-it-is [Suzuki's term] with a definition through its little thorax like a butterfly in a case. Life becomes livable only because it's stretched between a complete set of paradoxes.

And God? Utterly dependable, as the Bible says. Predictable, controllable, no. Not even controllable by our ideas of God's job description. If you need Him, He will show up in a funny hat and pull your nose. And everything will be all right!


olivia said...

Hi Forrest!

I love -- first of all -- this post's title. I think that's the nature of my comment too. I like your points and relate to them, in my humanity. But all that is further complicated by the fact that God is at work through you and I...BY you and I.

I have gotten into thinking of it at "God on site": God in general may seem to say or do or create certain circumstances, but what does God on site say about this?

Lately I'm focusing on my own passions and desire as something that has divine purpose.

So in this regard, it seems less helpful for us to think that we are "subject to" or "victims of" or "trying to get God to give us something"....and perhaps more theologically profitable to say as you estimate Rebecca is saying -- that "God will simply give her what she needs, whether that happens to be bliss, peace, agony, mental anguish, or indigestion."

The reason is that THAT perspective looks like it allows God to do something with her ON SITE -- to be the solution or the love or whatever, via her own actions.

We never know, when going through stuff, if that's what God wants to do. But it seems to at least leave open the possibility.

I haven't read her article yet but thanks for the link. What do YOU think of these further thoughts?


forrest said...

Hmmm, when I'm going through stuff, sometimes it feels like I know what God wants me to do (and that's what I'm doing) and other times I don't -- but backing off towards that theoretical perspective, it must have been what God wanted to happen. Not "ideal" but at least "the mistake I Was Meant To Make."

Your term helps me see Anthony Bloom's remark a little more clearly: his saying that we need to bring God with us. Need to welcome God 'on-site' wherever we are, maybe?

"The Kingdom of God is within your reach" was one person's reading of Jesus' habitual message. Certainly, Bloom was recommending that we do something 'together with God' instead of just 'trying to do something with God' (which doesn't seem to work, does it?)

Yes, I'm told our desires come from God, that the mistake people take is to read them too quickly as a call to some specific action. One case I read about involved a guy who wished he were a doctor so people could come to him with questions and he'd be able to answer them helpfully. He was too old for medical school, but someone was able to find him a job in a tourist information booth and he was reportedly very happy there!

olivia said...

Yeah, it's true that God being on site may make us want to leap into action the second we sense a call. I like the tourist booth story. I guess if we have enough faith in the love of God to know that God is willing to knock two or three times, or willing to get specific if we are clueless....then maybe we could try to wait it out until circumstances show us the way?

forrest said...

It isn't so simple except when it is! The guidance one needs -- whether this is to await further instructions or to leap into immediate action -- should be there at any moment.

& if one is running in silly circles waving one's hands, that would presumably be what's needed at the time... The anxiety we might be feeling about this -- can serve as an occasion to observe: "You're going to feel a whole lot better when you stop making yourself feel this way!"