Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Is there a plan?
In the late fall of my sophomore year of college, I went through my fraternity’s initiation week. I had pledged the previous spring; most pledged as first-semester freshmen in the fall and were initiated in the spring. So we had a small class of five.
There was no physical hazing, but it was an emotional and physical ordeal. Some of the week’s activities included wearing a coat and tie, even to classes; carrying around a large cardboard version of our pledge pin for the active members to sign (and hoping none of them tore your pin up – that’s why you made extra copies); not wearing shoes while you were in the fraternity house; sleeping under the dining room tables; and carrying a painted cigar box, to keep in it anything any active member told you to keep in it.
I was the only one of the five who was required to keep a copy of the “Four Spiritual Laws” in my cigar box. A member active in Campus Crusade for Christ quizzed me closely before he signed my cardboard pledge pin. He asked me all kinds of questions about sin, faith, the person of Jesus and his atoning work – and was amazed I knew all the answers. I wasn’t a believer, but everything I had learned in two years of Lutheran catechism had stuck. And I remembered it, even if I wasn’t exactly a paragon of Christian virtue. He must have been suspicious, because he told me to keep a copy of the Four Spiritual Laws in my cigar box and explain them to anyone who asked.
The “law” I always remembered was this one: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It’s a staple of evangelical Christianity. We may often forget “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but every one of us knows about the plan, or at least that there’s supposed to be one for each and every one of us.
Not that I have lived more years than I have left to live (so say the statistics, not to mention common sense), I wonder if I haven’t been looking at this all wrong.
It’s not that I doubt God has a plan, and it’s not that I doubt that God has a plan for me. But it’s more that I’ve been looking at this from the wrong end of binoculars. Maybe the spiritual law should have read this way: “God loves you and you are part of his plan.”
I’ve spent a lot of time over a lot of years worrying about what God’s plan was for me. Should I take this job? Should I attend this church? Should I make this major move? Is this what I’m being called to do? Something would happen, and voila! An answer to prayer!
You see my problem. All the emphasis, and all the focus, has been on me. I haven’t spent as much time thinking God’s plan as much as I have mine. And I don’t think the whole point of God’s universe is a plan for me. But I do think that I’m a tiny part of the point of God’s plan – and I’m stunned that he loved me enough to include me in that.
So instead of the Four Spiritual Laws, perhaps what I should have carried in my cigar box was a pocket-sized edition of the Psalms.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog-and-comment discussion of “keeping faith fresh.” Last week’s discussion was on letting go of worry. This week’s discussion is on discovering God's purpose for each of us.
Photograph: Rainbow by Anna Cervova via Public Domain Pictures.