We were having a planning session, discussing a vision of what our work might look like in five years.
One participant, after painting a detailed picture of what she saw as needed, finished by saying, “This is God’s will. I know it’s God’s will because it’s going to take a lot of work, and I don’t want to do it.”
I know people who rarely pass a day without attributing something to the will of God. It may be a plan for the future, a person who has touched their lives, or feeling a little push — one way or another — in a decision.
Many of these are joyful people for whom this divine deference works well.
My spiritual vision may not be as keen to see the thumb of God on the scales of daily life. I find it particularly hard to abide those who attribute death — no matter how painful or horrendous — to the will of God.
On the birth side, some tend to overdo the Creator’s credit. With tens of thousands of human genes and over 130 million newborns a year, a God Who selects eye color, skin tones and personal traits would have little time left for sunsets, love and forgiveness. It is one thing to see the people and events of life as unmerited gifts, but quite another to interpret them as God’s will, as integral to God’s plan.
There is always a danger in the latter. When we pray “Thy will be done” we too often conflate “Thy will” and “my will,” leading to a sense of certainty and exceptionalism.
I don’t think that God is quite the micromanager that some would have us believe. On the other hand, God is far more involved than the proverbial watchmaker God, intervening only when something goes terribly awry.
While I may be slow to identify it in my life, I believe in God’s will. I see it best in hindsight, but I think that’s natural because God’s will, far from desiring something specific and immediate, always seems to take the long view.
As Paul says, “all things work together for good.” That takes time.
I like what Thomas Merton came to realize in A Search for Solitude. “The will of God,” he wrote, “is not a ‘fate’ to which we submit, but a creative act in our life, creating something new.”
To find God’s will, I need to look for the stirring, the rising, the breaking and the budding.