Prior to starting seminary I stuck to a pretty good diet and exercise routine. “Gain weight more slowly than I have in the past” was my motivational mantra, and it worked. I held my own. But, towards the very beginning of my first semester, I realized that grad school, work, family, and serving left no time for fitness. So, I prayed, “God, I can’t do this. Please replace my desire for food with a desire for you. Please be my reward at the end of a long day and my source for physical satisfaction and relaxation.” and, I trusted God to handle it.
Two years in, three weeks ago, I got on the scale at my doctor’s office and found myself twenty-five pounds heavier. A PR (personal record. A term my fit friends use regularly.). Was I mad at God for letting me down? You bet. In fact, it launched a serious crisis of faith.
It also made me mad enough to cut all the garbage out of my diet and exercise for an hour each day. Predictably, I’m losing weight. I’m also far more focused on God than food when I’m hungry.
Interesting. Apparently there may be more to it than, “Ask and you shall receive.”
I’m wondering if our familiarity with being catered to as consumers has made a subtle but significant adjustment in how we perceive our sharing of responsibilities with God. As Christians we appear to be in a very receiving mindset. We acknowledge our inability to “do” based on our inherently sinful nature and our total dependence on God. And so we ask God to give us guidance, fix us, sanctify us, dig us out of debt, quiet our noisy neighbor, straighten our crooked children, and make our bodies healthy. Is it that simple.
Does God really provide guidance, or does god give us the opportunity to seek out God’s will? The first option assigns humankind a fairly passive role – listening. The second is very different involving questing, testing, mistake making, learning, developing, and growing. All of this just to grasp understanding.
Will God fix our problems, or will God bless our efforts at agency in our lives?
If God had simply kept me healthy during seminary, that would have been a blessing. However, by inviting me to join in the process God provides the opportunity for my faith to grow at a deeper experiential level.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV) “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Should we refuse to have a plan so that we are free to participate in God’s plan? Or should we pray for the courage and understanding to constantly reshape our plan to fall in accordance with God’s will as we strive and grow?