So, I went to church at the right time, again. I think God is trying to woo me back into fellowship with a chain of "wow, I really needed to hear that" moments at church. I guess you could say it started when I opened the bulletin and read the announcement that next week would start a new Bible class in the morning covering Ecclesiasted and Job. This is merely remarkable partly because I've thought about reading through the book of Job lately, and partly because Ecclesiastes thrills me in an odd, enigmatic way. But God surprised me more than once.
Before going to church this morning, and indeed, all weekend long, I've been thinking about the upcoming school year. Well, not just thinking, but I've been dwelling. I know this is the semester when I'll decide upon my future and start making choices that will ultimately affect my life ahead, academically, spiritually, etc. I've had dreams about graduate school, merely because I fall to sleep at night thinking about this upcoming year, about getting through it so I can go to grad school, but also wondering what I'm missing since I'm not in grad school yet. That's not the healthiest line of thinking, because it brings on quite a restless night. But as I was telling a friend of mine, I even found myself dreaming about studying literary theory... which is odd, to say the least. But the problem has been that I've been dwelling over what I want, or where I want to be, or what I want to study.
I've been worried and worried and worried about the choices I'll be making this semester.
So imagine my surprise when the minister begins his sermon regarding prayer - not just about prayer, but about that key line that some people say far too often to be sincere about it: "not my will, but thine be done."
When Christ prayed in Gethsemane, he was in agony. He sweated drops of blood, for crying out loud. Our preacher pointed out that the song that states "he had no care for his own griefs, but sweat drops of blood for mine" is incredibly misleading, and downright false. Christ was in agony for himself, pleading with God over and over again for "this cup to pass," BUT, that if it was God's will, he would take of it. We don't understand the concept of "your will be done" when we talk to God.
Isn't prayer supposed to be about changing God's will? What about Hezekiah, in II Kings 20, when God ordained that he should die, but Hezekiah's unrelenting prayer granted him 15 years more of life? What about the parable spoken by Christ about the persistent woman who's request was granted by the King merely because of her persistence? Why should we ever pray "Your will be done"?
"Your will be done," is not for everyone.
There is a certain amount of spiritual maturity that comes with truly being willing to accept God's will, and to be "okay" with the outcome. It's hard to give up our will. It's hard to turn things over to God, because there is always the case that God's will could include suffering. Look at Job. Look at millions and millions of people who ask God everyday why a loved one had to be taken from them. Dr. Baird referenced C.S. Lewis, whose book "A Grief Observed" relates a CHristian journey through the turmoil of losing a loved one, and how he faced God in all of that pain.
Christ understood that pain, and he still granted God His will. Our will is a will based merely on our knowledge, our own interests, the love we have for ourselves and those we love, and whatever is the least painful path to take. We can't possibly take in the entire picture. We, like Dr. Baird suggested, would have been railing and railing against God if we had been alive during the time of Joseph, watching him suffer as a slave, and even a prisoner, for decades and decades. How could we have understood God's overall plan? How can we ever understand God's overall plan?
But God's will is stronger than our will, and we have to be able to accept it. Of course, God's "no" is better than "no God," as Dr. Baird put it, and God would rather us be sincerely angry with him, than insincerely in agreement.
A sincere argument with God is better than an insincere "Your will be done."
I'm going to think twice on that before I mention that in a prayer. I understand now, through this summer, that God's will is perfect, and beautiful, but that it includes a lot of pain and blind confusion from us humans, who can't fully understand it. It's hard to just trust, and obey, blindly.