Saturday, 12 May 2012
13 year-old-me to Counselor at Church Camp: My mom was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I keep praying for her to get better, but she just keeps getting worse. Why won’t God make her better?
Camp Counselor: I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that it might be God’s plan for her to have Schizophrenia.
Me: Why would God have a plan like that?
Camp Counselor: God works in mysterious ways that we can’t understand. We might not be able to see it, but God might be able to use her disease to bring about great good in other people’s lives.
Me: Ok...what’s the other possible reason?
Camp Counselor: Well, God says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed that we can move mountains. Maybe you don’t have enough faith.
Me: So my choices are; God wants my mom to be sick because it’s his plan, or it’s my fault because I don’t have enough faith?
Camp Counselor: Yes
Me: That’s pretty fucked up.
I didn’t really say that because I didn’t talk that way then. I do talk that way now, however, and what amazes me is that after hundreds of exchanges like this during my formative years I still went on to Bible College and Seminary and became a minister instead of asking God to go create a cliff and then jump off of it. It actually took me another 20 years to allow myself to see how seriously disturbed that kind of rhetoric is.
Perhaps it’s in our DNA to want to believe that God has an intricate plan that involves every aspect of our lives. I think it makes us feel more safe and secure and allows us to attribute meaning to events that seem arbitrary and random. I believed strongly that God had a detailed plan for my life for a long time. However, after years in the ministry dealing with people who had endured unspeakable tragedy, I finally had to admit that it was impossible for me to hold onto that belief without concluding that God is a sick bastard.
I mentioned this conclusion to my small group at church the other evening. I said that my position is that the world can be a bad place and if you live in the world bad things might very well happen to you regardless of whether you’re good or bad or how you label yourself. I went on to say that I think God’s “plan” is for us to strive to have the positive attributes we ascribe to him and that outside of that, I don’t think God gets involved in the ins and outs of our daily lives.
Amid gasps of horror I decided to press the point. I went on to say that as a group we spent a lot of time praying for sick people and that, in my opinion, it’s probably kind of a waste of time. I suggested that it might be better to just stand around and hold hands and hope their doctor went to a good medical school.
For me, believing that God created us but maintains a “hands off” policy with our daily lives doesn’t make him less loving. In fact, the thought of a God that manipulates events like a puppeteer controlling a marionette according to a plan only he is capable of understanding is the antithesis of love.
Do you think God has a distinct plan laid out for your life, or is His plan less about the intricacies and more about your response to what happens in life? Do you believe God is hands-off or a puppeteer?