Thou mayest freely eat

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Posted by w0ep on December 23, 2017 at 9:05 am

[Today’s run: 6 miles]

We have a warm, windy and wet morning today.  I went over to Starkville and ran with some folks over there.  By the end I was very well soaked.  But with the warmer temperatures it wasn’t an unpleasant experience.

I had a shower thought recently.  I went to a Christian school from 8-12 grades.  One of the mysterious issues that we pondered frequently was “How to determine God’s will for your life.”  From the students’ point of view this frequently was attached to questions of career, relationships, decisions which chart the long-term arc of  a person’s life (or so it seemed at the time).  And the older people never had a quite satisfactory answer.  What if I go to the wrong college or marry the wrong person, will I miss some sweet-spot of success in the course of my life?

Looking at it from this end (having had a career and a marriage, etc.) and that all looks backwards.  Maybe this was understood by the adults at that time also, but I don’t think it was communicated, or at least not communicated well in all of those angst-filled discussions.

I remember they seemed to have some tiered approach to the “will of God” with general will (things on the line of ‘obey the 10 commandments’) and specific will (‘this guy here is supposed to be a missionary, this other guy is supposed to be a computer programmer’).  And the angst was that somehow I’m going to miss some vital clue about my place in the world and mess the whole thing up.

This is defective thinking about the nature of God  as seen in the Bible.  If God wants me to be a prophet, He has given every indication of ability and inclination to make that known in an undeniable way.  Ok. So I haven’t received a blinding-light ordination to take a message to Nineveh.  Am I supposed to carry my lunch to work or buy something at the local taco stand?

Ah!  So what are the boundaries of my personal responsibility?  I think that is the real question.  Do I wear the red shirt or the blue shirt.  Should I go on a date with X?  Become a vegetarian?  Take that job offer?  And suddenly we are in the realm of generalities, rules of thumb, and subtle shades of conscience.

I wish I could tell my high-school self that it’s OK.  Look at the image of perfection we have in the Bible: the Garden of Eden.  God said, “Of all of the trees of the garden you may freely eat  (except for this particular one)” .  You could say that in the post-Eden condition my judgment is faulty about how much to eat or lacking variety or whatnot.  But I think it is obvious that the inclination of God is to hand some decision-making over to individuals.

Maybe that’s why I like movies about the nature of reality (The Matrix, The Truman Show, etc.).  The big question is how should a person choose, and what are the implications of a choice.  Is reality an automation with no “real” choices?  Is the game rigged?  And the happy ending in these films is that choices do make a difference, personal agency wins.

[Like most of my blog posts, this is half-baked at best.  I’m sure there are philosophers and theologians who spend serious time and effort putting these things together.]

So you really do get to pick if you want to be an artist or date whats-her-name or whatever.  It’s good to have some decision-making criteria, get good advice etc.  And the rest you can leave to God and his grace to fill in the gaps.



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  • On December 23, 2017 at 10:45 am Jonathan Howard said

    Be nice and don’t leave a mess.

    • On December 23, 2017 at 2:58 pm w0ep said

      Good advice!

  • On December 24, 2017 at 9:23 am Sue said

    That is truly loving your neighbor as yourself.

    I agree when the discussion of God’s-will-for-your-life comes around even now it just seems to muddy the waters. Why not just explain His will is the two greatest commandments, as explained by Christ. That way, people can make their plans and personal decisions with a clear conscience and watch life’s doors open and close as God leads them along.

    The hardest part is following the greatest commandment, second hardest is the second greatest. I’m not very good at either of them.

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