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What is God-willing anyway?

‘God-willing.’ I hear it all the time. Sometimes I hear it from me.

  • “God-willing, the tests will come back clear.”
  • “He’ll be back in action, God-willing, by the first game of the season.”
  • “If, God-willing, I get the job, I’ll…”
  • “I’ll finish this article, God-willing, before the deadline.”

What is God-willing? And what have I got to do with it?

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done…” But somehow we have adapted this as an in-case-it-doesn’t-happen strategy. I’m asking for this, specifically, but if it doesn’t come out the way I hope, it’s not my fault. God didn’t want it that way. Which begs the question: Is God wanting and God willing the same?

I imagine that what God wants is for me to listen and look. God’s will, then, is what I do with what He shows and tells me. At least that’s God’s will for me, and that is all I really have a front row seat for. I believe His plans for me are very specific. That His perfect will actually maps out exactly what He would do if He were me.

It doesn’t make sense that He would make this a secret. We treat it that way. As if it were hovering over the universe, a predetermined series of events that we fear we may disrupt with our actions so we tiptoe around hoping for the best. All of God’s will we couldn’t handle, but I think he wants me to know my part. He’s written my script and wants me to deliver my lines. He’s made a way for this. A perfect way.

So, when God wills…something is activated in every creature who has the power to effect that will-ing. Perhaps the Holy Spirit it dispatched with our script. We can choose to read and enact it or we can set it aside for a convenient time or a safer moment. Imagine receiving God’s dispatch and setting it aside. Or imagine, a continual flow through of the Spirit, where read Him aloud the moment we heard Him. Where we never interrupted our sentences with “God-willing” apologies, because it was already in motion. Made by Him. We were the motion.

Every now and then I have a few moments of that. Perhaps part of a day of that. Where I am not really thinking, just doing, and everything clicks like the cylinders in a well oiled machine. All is right and good and perfect – until I notice. I take a look at all I’m doing and imagine it was my idea. When it was really God’s idea.

And I fall away. Perhaps am even cast out. How dare I think I am wielding God’s will. Lobbing it like a hand grenade on my enemies, sprinkling it like fairy dust on my loved ones, rubbing it across my keyboard and expect the genie to emerge. No, God’s will is not for me to maneuver or manage. Just access and act.

Oh, there is plenty of distraction out there. Things meant to get me to look away, just for a moment. To step outside of what I’m doing to assess it and see if it’s good or right or just or fair. That’s my will, masquerading as God’s will. No dice.

Imagine being in God’s will all day long. What a broad expanse that would be. A vast field where every path was the way to harvest. A deep ocean where every dive was the way to beauty. Where every way was the way to Him. There would be no loneliness there. No doubt or worry or regret. Even hope seems unnecessary in such a place. No need. All is.

Imagine that God wills this very existence for every one of us. Not a future willing but a present tense willing. Not a ‘will be’ but a ‘here now.’

How petty are my “God-willing” disclaimers. They are just my way of making my will sound like His. My obedience is to make my life look like His. Done.

Putting it Into Practice

Are you one of those people who sits and listens in prayer? Do you hear God speaking? Does He give you a final answer?

I don’t know fully what God is saying to me until I go with it. Well, let me correct that, I don’t know it fully but moving seems to facilitate the process for me. In fact, if I am stuck, I find that just getting up and doing something – just whatever occurs to me that needs doing – seems to set me in the right direction. Hate to say it, but this makes me think of those constipation medicines, that keep you “regular.” Whatever that is.

For me this conversation continues into the Christian life lived out, or the pursuit of it, anyway. If we become aware of a need, of something that needs doing, as we are able we are meant to act on it. Now I have found this to be a double-edged sword because I can be too quick to act (speak, go, do, fix, resolve) or, usually rebounding from this, I can be too slow to act (speak, go, do, try to resolve). Both work out badly. Both, I believe, have me running off course.

But the worst, for me, is stalled. I can justify this, mind you. I am waiting until I find out exactly what I am supposed be doing. Then, you betcha, I’ll be all over it. But first, I will study it, research it, learn about it. Then, when I can insure my own success I will embark. Problem is, by then the moment provided for me to move ahead is gone. I am just surmising this, mind you, because you can’t see what you’ve missed.

So today I play with the notion of continuous motion of a slow and steady sort. Listening, learning and leaning forward all in the same motion. I fear I fall into the temporal ‘everything one at a time always in a straight line’ thinking much too often. The step 1, step 2, step 3 approach. Hey, if my body can sense motion, process the sensation and plan the next motion all at the same time – without my even thinking about it – why can’t my Christian faith lived out look the same? maybe even take the same shape?

Jesus told us that if we truly loved him, we’d do what He asked. Obedience was true love. What if obedience isn’t just blind following? What if obedience is just moving forward, prompted by the notion of what needs doing? we don’t need to know the goal, just the next step, perhaps the first step. Not blindly but with full attention to where we are stepping, how it feels, and what happens then. A give and take sort of obedience. a trying it on. a putting it into practice.

Paul tells the Philippians,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” ~ Phil 4:8-9

My worst enemy may be the temptation to stop with verse 8…think about such things. I wonder what would happen if I always went on to the next verse. And trusted that, when I put it into practice the God of Peace will be with me.

Can I really go wrong?

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