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"Discerning God's Will" pertains to how we make decisions. What values do we consider? Which have priority? How can we tell which, among the options we face, might be the one preferred by God? These are the questions that we will reflect upon together during this series; there is much to be learned not only by consulting our own experiences, but the wisdom of the ages available to us in our Christian tradition.

Personal Impressions

What kinds of images come to mind when you think of "God's will?" How does it feel to even consider this phrase? Joyous? Heavy? How have you used this phrase in your life? How have others spoken to you about it? For example, has anyone ever told you that something terrible that happened must be "God's will?" And what kinds of things in history have been justified as "God's will?"

I remember a Cursillo retreat I attended in 1973. For four days, we listened to long talks, shared table discussion, presented our reflections to the large group using poster messages, slept very little, ate poorly, and sang a lot. If this doesn't sound appealing, let me assure you that I agree, and can happily say that they don't do it like that any more. But one thing I can tell you is that it worked! Grace broke through to communicate God's love and joy in those who attended, self included. I mention this because one of the slogans we were taught was "God wills it." Wills what? I wasn't quite sure, except that God willed that more people attend Cursillos, and I did my best to recruit them.

"God wills it." From that Cursillo onward, I noticed how many times the idea of "doing God's will" came up in the Scriptures and in the teachings of spiritual writers. There it was, for example, in the Lord's Prayer: thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as in heaven. Filled with religious enthusiasm, I was most willing to do God's will, provided I knew, of course, what exactly that was. I also accepted that God had a "plan" for my life, and if I did God's will, I would realize God's plan for me and know happiness in this life and heavenly bliss in the next. But what was God's plan? How could I know if I was following it?

During the years that followed, I did much study and reflection on the meaning of Christian faith. I also committed to daily prayer, as it became clear early on that a relationship with God entailed more than just "head knowledge." Nevertheless, I found it difficult to understand what "doing God's will" really meant apart from avoiding sin and doing good. You don't have to be very spiritually mature to figure that out, however.

The Playwright Metaphor

Flashback: early November 1976. I'm sitting alone in the chapel at the Catholic Student Center at LSU around midnight. Engaged to be married on November 27, I'm wondering if this is the right decision. A sense of dread fills me deep inside. What if I'm not doing God's will? What if God wanted me to be a priest instead? I'd thought about all this before, but on that night, I felt deeply divided within myself. How could I know if getting married was what God wanted me to do? It's surely what I wanted to do, but what if I was somehow veering off of God's plan for my life in doing so?

That night, I got in touch with an image of God's will that I've since come to call the "playwright metaphor." The idea, here, is that God's plan for our lives is like a script for a character in a play. So long as we stay close to the script, we are "doing God's will" and we know God's peace and fellowship. If we deviate from the script, however, we move away from God's plan and bring displeasure to God. We also hurt ourselves -- maybe even alienating ourselves from God forever. After all, if God made us to be a certain way and do certain things, then when we do otherwise we don't really become the person God meant for us to be.

The question, then, was whether I was following the right script in getting married, or whether I was writing my own in defiance (or ignorance) of God's plan? How could I know? If an angel or Christ would just give me the script, I would gladly follow it, only that didn't happen. It's never happened. There are still times when I would like to have a copy of that blasted script, but . . . nothing!

Marching Orders

Without a copy of God's script for my life, then, another image I struggled with was what I now call "Marching Orders." What this meant to me was that even though God might not have a comprehensive script for me to follow, it could very well be that God had specific assignments for me to do at certain times. This was less confining than the Playwright Metaphor, but it still put the onus on God to tell me what to do. Marry or not? What is the assignment, please?

No response!

So what does that mean? Can I just do what I want? What if that's being selfish? And how can a be a good "soldier" for the Kingdom if I'm not given my mission?

Silence . . .

Jansenist Metaphor

If you were raised Catholic during the 50s and 60s, you were probably infected with Jansenist tendencies. Same goes for Protestants and Puritanism. What these movements contributed to religious thinking was the notion that given a choice between two or more options, God's will is probably the one that brings more suffering and hardship to our lives. This was explained in terms of "carrying your cross," and its value was in wearing down the hard-nosed selfishness that sin has brought forth in all of us. Choosing to do things that you enjoy is thought to be selfish, but even if it's not, forgoing the pleasure in order to do something that will make you miserable instead is a good thing and most pleasing to God. Life on this planet is not what it's about, you see; we are just biding our time until death and heaven, so no use to get too attached to the things of this world. Suffering and mortification prevent developing such attachment, and deepen the soul's capacity for God; we'll be happy about that one day, but not now.

There was plenty of this sort of thinking in me, and when I got right down to it, this seemed to be one of the strongest reservations I had about getting married. I had many times compared the options of marriage and priesthood, and had noted the happiness and enthusiasm I had for married life. After all, I'd told myself, I could minister as a married person, but I couldn't marry if I were a priest. Was this just a cross-denying rationalization? In the absence of "marching orders" or "the script," how could I be sure?

"You're sure if you take the more difficult path, the one that will bring more hardship and misery. Then you will know the cross of Christ and share in his resurrection."

I noted the response within . . . I wasn't buying it. I had read enough theology to know better, and had apparently grown enough spiritually that a deeper, more peaceful place within was not persuaded by this faux spirituality.

The Happiness Metaphor

During times of reflection and soul-searching such as I was undergoing that night, I'd often "cracked open" the Bible to see if there was a "word" for me. I did so that night, and came upon a genealogy from the Book of Chronicles. Not much there, I thought, until I realized that this was a recounting of the holy men and women of the Bible . . . their marriages and families. It was then, too, that I recalled the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas to the effect that God had created us to know happiness . . . that God even willed our happiness. This was certainly congruent with the Biblical teaching of God as good and loving, and I noted that consideration of this principle brought joy to the quiet place within me.

But wasn't this being selfish?

No, not at all -- not in a sinful way, that is. Marriage was a good willed by God -- even a Sacrament of the Catholic Church. I was not desiring to do something wrong. And if God wanted me to be a priest, wouldn't God make me feel more happy about that option?

Thirty years of marriage and three children later, I look back on that night as extremely important on my spiritual journey. It wasn't then that I decided to marry Lisa; I'd known for several months that she'd be a great wife. What happened was that I felt free before God to marry her. Any doubts I had about this being God's will were resolved as I sorted through those different images of God's will. I've encountered those images at different times in my life since, and have helped spiritual directees work through them as well. Maybe you've encountered them in yourself, and a few others in addition?

Summary

As you can tell, I favor the "happiness metaphor" of God's will as most congruent with what we learn about God and creation from Scripture and other Christian teaching. However, I do not mean to be saying, here, that God has no plan for our lives -- only that we are given no "script" that will tell us what it is. Also, we might indeed find times where "marching orders" of sorts do seem to be given us, and even instances where doing the "hard thing" could be God's will. Affirming that God wills our happiness doesn't mean that this is the only consideration we attend to; we can indeed be deluded on this matter, with rationalizations masking an underlying selfish inclination. Discerning God's will entails giving consideration to both internal movements of the spirit and objective/external principles and guidelines. Only after having done so -- especially regarding significant decisions -- can we come to assurance that we are following God's will.

More on all this as we go along . . .

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

This and ensuing conferences are only a "first word" in what I hope will be an enriching discussion and sharing on the discussion forum:
- see http://shalomplace.org/eve/forums/a/frm/f/4821003531
You can use the questions below to help focus your remarks.

1. What comments or questions do you have after reading this conference?

2. Which of the images of God's will did you relate to? If you're willing, please share on the discussion forum how you have experienced this.
 
Posts: 3522 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I must admit, the expression "God's Will" leaves me with a negative feeling. It sounds like something somebody says when they are trying to make you feel better about something unfortunate.

I try to think back to something positive in my life...or somebody else's life. Would I ever have said, "Wow....how great! This must have been God's will!" It doesn't sound very natural or likely. But there's no reason that I couldn't use the phrase "God's Will" in a positive situation. I just don't remember every using it that way. Smiler Instead, I might say, "It was meant to be!"

Now, Phil, I like your happiness metaphor. It reminds me of a present that I gave my daughter when she graduated from High School. I found this quote, typed it in a fancy font, and had it matted and framed at a professional framing shop. The quote went like this, "God has a way of bringing us what we truly need, when we follow our hearts' desires." I think that quote might be another way of explaining the happiness metaphor? BTW, I found the quote in a Guidepostsarticle. It was something a priest said to a young woman who was unhappy living away from her family and friends.

Also, I think if we follow "our hearts' desires" we might be led to unexpected places. As Phil said, God is still the playright.

When my daughter was applying for colleges, one of her teachers at school gave her an application for a small Catholic College in Kansas City. We had never even heard of the place. I don't know why we even sent off that application, but there was a definite "pull" to do so. Well, as you may have guessed, that was the school that my daughter chose to attend. And she loved her first year of college. The school was the perfect match for her! Was it God's Will that she attend that college? I don't know, but it sure was MEANT TO BE!

Something else that I recalled as I read about the Janesenist metaphor. When we were little girls going to parochial school in the 60's the nuns would tell us that God might be calling us to be nuns. Later, on the playground we all gave voice to the same horrified thought, "What if God calls us to be nuns, even if we don't WANT to be nuns!" I think we were horrified at the thought of not having a choice!

Lastly, does the expression "God's Will" mean the same thing as "What God Wants?" I have a very dear friend named Tammy, who was unable to have children. This was (and still is) a great source of pain and disappointment for her and her husband. Was it God's Will that she not have any children of her own? Doesn't God want us to have healthy bodies that function as they were designed? How could God not WANT to give her a child?

Ron Rolheiser says that "God does not start fires, or floods, or wars or AIDS.....in order to wake us up or bring us back to true values." He goes on to say, "However, to say that God does not initiate or cause these things is not the same thing as saying that God does not speak through them."

So, I wonder what was God saying to Tammy, in the midst of her sufferring?

Anne
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I think, in my heart, what I'd really like is a method that always worked for discerning God's will. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just always reach into an envelope and pull out a slip of paper that would tell us what God wants for this day? I guess, as I think about it, a lot of times I think of God's will as just this mysterious thing out there that I need to learn the technique to discover what it is. And I've had all the struggles and questions that Phil mentioned: What if this thing I really want is just me being selfish, and I'm deceiving myself thinking it's God's will? Do I dare seek God's will in thus-and-such situation? He's just going to come along and spoil my fun. Smiler And I remember, as a 14-year-old girl, after a classmate drowned, glibly telling a teacher, "It must have been God's will," because I felt there always had to be an answer for everything; and if something happened that I didn't understand, tragedy or not, well, it was God's will. Smiler So I've had several views of God's will over the years. It does seem like the times I've really felt like I've found God's will for a given situation, it's the thing that makes me happy and feels right and fulfilling. But how do we make sure that we don't just run after our happiness and say it's God's will, when we're really seeking our own self-interest. Just because God's will makes me feel happy, doesn't mean that everything that makes me feel happy is God's will. So I'm excited to learn ways to be a better listener and discerner of God's will, though I still say it would be much easier to just reach in and pull out an envelope and open it and have it written on a slip of paper! Smiler Discerning is often hard work.
  
 
Posts: 28 | Location: Sacramento, CA | Registered: 23 January 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hello,

I like the happiness metaphor.

In applying it to my situation, I don't believe that it is God's will that I should be sick, or suffer pain and isolation, but I do believe that God will speak God's will for me in the midst of these circumstances. This will that I envision has to do with me experiencing the presence of God in my little daily rhythms and routines....and hopefully allowing that presence to do its work in me.....

I'm eager to hear more.
 
Posts: 35 | Registered: 28 September 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi,
I relate to the marching orders and happiness images. The marching orders because I still wonder whether God has specific assignments for me to do or are they general and can be carried out in a variety of ways. Secondly, I relate to the happiness image because I believe that whatever my ministries are they come from the gifts He has given me so I should enjoy the giving.
When I stop feeling joyful I ususally check my attitude to see if it's the ministry no longer fulfilling me or some expectations that are getting in the way of my enjoying it. Either way I do believe that God wants us to feel happy - joyful in our work for Him and that it shouldn't be about crosses because life will provide plenty of those on its own.
 
Posts: 2 | Registered: 02 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Oops. Dear auntmary, I mistakenly clicked the Edit icon instead of the quotes one in responding to your post and ended up over-writing it. (Only the Admin can do that). I wasn't able to retrieve the message after doing so. Fine example on how to use the message board, right?

Apologies. I hope you'll post some of your thoughts again.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
 
Posts: 6 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This is all great sharing, much of which is anticipating future conferences. Lots of wisdom and experience, here.

It's easy to see how this topic could expand into quite a few related areas, and it's fine if that happens. In the conferences, however, I'll be staying close to what I wrote in the first paragraph about making decisions.

BTW, I fogot to mention that you can keep track of what's happening on this and other threads through one of the options on the Notify tag at the top of the discussion.

We've had a couple of more people join the group today. This brings us up to 40 or so, counting the perennial Alpha Group gang.

Phil
 
Posts: 3522 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yes! * I like this. That is right on! Experiencing God and practicing being in His presence. God's will can be discerned through our meditation, contemplation and Lectio Divina.
quote:
Originally posted by Carole:
Hello,

I like the happiness metaphor.

In applying it to my situation, I don't believe that it is God's will that I should be sick, or suffer pain and isolation, but I do believe that God will speak God's will for me in the midst of these circumstances. This will that I envision has to do with me experiencing the presence of God in my little daily rhythms and routines....and hopefully allowing that presence to do its work in me.....

I'm eager to hear more.
 
Posts: 2 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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SmilerFor me, I can understand God's will on a high generic level, but a detailed specific level is harder for me to grasp.
For instance, I beleive God's will is for all people to show and experience the fruits of the spirit in their daily lives, such as love, joy, peace,compassion, generosity, patience, kindness,etc and to live with the ethics of honesty, integrity, disipline, trustworthyness, etc. I don't see God having a specific plan for my life. Whatever choices I make, am I living God's ethics and fruits of the Spirit through this choice? If it is not possible, then I should make a change in my choice. If it is possible and I am not seeing the fruits of the Spirit in my life, then I need to change within myself.
I for sure don't believe, God causes bad things to happen to teach us or punish us.In a free world, God is not totally in control. These things just happen in an imperfect world. However, I think we can allow suffering to teach us and transform us and bring us closer to being conformed to the image of Christ. The suffering and pain in my life has brought me closer to God and continually refines me like fire.
I agree too that following your 'hearts desires' is sn important tool in the process. If we listen to our deep inner longings, rather than what others or culture expects of us, we are true to ourselves. Our True Self, which is the divine within, is being followed. The challenge is to learn how to listen to our True Self.
When I think of God's will, I think of the 'Kingdom of Heaven' that Christ talked about.. That is the goal and final fullfillment of God's will and purpose for creation. I think of the Lord's prayer.
"...thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Christ preached a kingdom
of social justice and righteousness. What am I doing to work for the fullfilment of God's Kingdom?

Overall, I know that discerning God's will for decisions we make can be very challenging and requires knowing our selves and using many tools. I'm looking forward to learning new tools for this discipline.
 
Posts: 8 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by auntmary2:
Oops. Dear auntmary, I mistakenly clicked the Edit icon instead of the quotes one in responding to your post and ended up over-writing it. (Only the Admin can do that). I wasn't able to retrieve the message after doing so. Fine example on how to use the message board, right?

Apologies. I hope you'll post some of your thoughts again.



Oh Phil, you made my day! I checked out the forum before I headed out the door to work and saw your message. It's had me laughing all day Big Grin
Just in case you didn't delete me on purpose <that's a joke> I'm pasting what I wrote earlier.


What a wonderful intro and discussion! Thank you, Phil, and all.
I was raised in that Jansenist era, went to parochial school through my sophomore year, and grew up with the “God’s will is going to hurt” belief. I left the church at 20 and gave no thought to God or His will for the next 16 years. In the 22 years I’ve been back I’ve been on a path of trying to discern and live by His will. I came to realize that my old ideas were what stood in the way of my forming any sort of relationship with him and blocked any love, in either direction!
For quite a few years I’ve believed in the happiness metaphor. I read a 70 page pamphlet that opened my eyes and my heart to the reality that Jesus Christ suffered the unbearable pain and humiliation of the crucifixion so that I, me Mary, would not have to be bound by sin and could experience that love and relationship. I believe that He *wants* me to be happy, and that the way to that happiness is obedience (human response to divine love) to the *spirit* of His laws. That in turn brings me happiness, joy and love. Yes, that may seem selfish, but I believe that I am supposed to 1) love Him, 2) love me, and 3) love my neighbors. (Way back in 10th grade I remember a guidance counselor telling me that there is no single *human* act that is totally unselfish. Hmmmm,,,,,,)
Discerning His will in my life in 4 major decisions, pursuing custody of my daughters, getting married vs religious life, moving and changing jobs, I pretty much took the same steps. Pray, write out all pros and cons, in my prayers I ask for guidance and ask Him to “block my way” if I’m steering wrong way, I discuss it deeply and honestly with a spiritual confidante, and pursue a path. I never pursued custody of my daughters because others would be irreparably hurt, the girls were happy, well and secure. Through the pain of that, I learned how to love without ownership, or authority. That was a great gift. That also taught me that there is value in my suffering. Perhaps to bring me to a deeper need and desire for God? Perhaps to be more empathetic and less judgemental of others?
There’s always more to be revealed-lol.
Mary
 
Posts: 6 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Mary wrote:

(Way back in 10th grade I remember a guidance counselor telling me that there is no single *human* act that is totally unselfish. Hmmmm,,,,,,)

Hey Mary,

When I was on a retreat last summer, my director told me that same thing!

Anne
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I tend to get anxious and frustrated when I consider God's will too much. When I was 12 years old and attending Catholic grade school, I remember a little nun who stood in front of the class and stated with much certainty that it would definitely mean you had a vocation to enter the convent if you didn't like to dance. Being the obsessive-compulsive person I am, I went home and cried my eyes out to my mother, for the next few months, that I didn't like to dance so it was God's will that I enter the convent. Well, I didn't enter the convent but I felt like I was refusing to do God's will and that I was turning my back on Him. Consequently, through the years, I felt that when things did not work out, God was punishing me. I matured into a person who always needed to know what the rules were and to find the "one right way" or be forever on the wrong side of God. Many years later, in a 12 step program, I read a story about God's will and it resounded with me. The story was about a person who needed to make a long trip and came to the realization that to get to this distant city, she could choose many different paths. There may be one shortest route, but she realized God's will was to get to the city not which route to take to get there. The story and others like it, helped me see God's will in less "black and white" terms and also helped me to view my life is less rigid terms. Pertaining to God's will, I can tell you more about what isn't God's will for me than what is.
Thanks for listening.
Janice
 
Posts: 10 | Registered: 14 February 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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[quote] The story was about a person who needed to make a long trip and came to the realization that to get to this distant city, she could choose many different paths. There may be one shortest route, but she realized God's will was to get to the city not which route to take to get there. The story and others like it, helped me see God's will in less "black and white" terms and also helped me to view my life is less rigid terms. quote]

Thanks for sharing, Janice. That's a great analogy and such a wonderful way of thinking about God's will.

Anne
 
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Thank you "auntmary" for re-posting. I'm glad you had typed it up in another place.

It's good to see a bit of sharing on this thread. That really helps to process the topic. Anyone reading, just hit Reply and let us know your thoughts and experiences. Whatever you post will be fine.

Janice, the sisters never mentioned anything about dancing to us boys in grade school. Reverse chauvinism? Wink Of course, it was understood that God was probably calling all of us to the priesthood, and in those days, it was emphasized the this was a higher calling than married life. Lots of pressure, it seemed. Then there was the common practice in south Louisiana of large families having at least one child become a priest and/or sister. As the oldest of 8, that put me at 12.5% odds, and though I didn't feel any particular calling-to, I didn't feel a draw to marriage, either -- not in grade school, at least. But, then, most boys don't, so that was no big deal. I was going to be a baseball player when I grew up and that was that! Big Grin

Later, after making the Cursillo, I wondered, however. There was definitely a new depth of faith that was awakened, and it made me happy to think that I could turn to God the rest of my life. Didn't this mean I was being called to the priesthood? But young women and the prospect of marriage held my interest as well -- especially women of faith. That's how the dilemma I described in my opening conference came about.

As you can all tell, our images of God have considerable influence on our understanding of God's will. We'll explore this more deeply as we go along.
 
Posts: 3522 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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When I was younger I had a very naive view of God, he was the man in sky..it was also a negative view, it meant suffering doing without. Doing God's will was the Church's will. Of course my view has changed my view of God has more of mystic feel to it and of course something that is much greater than myself. I have to admit I have difficulty with the word God only because the word brings up very limiting views which are of course are based on old images. However apart from those old images I have difficulty understanding how I can determine God's will for me when I am not sure what God is all about in the first place and how do differentiate between my will and God's will?
 
Posts: 2 | Registered: 05 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi everyone,
I've just been reading a lot of very interesting thoughts but one that has stuck is Carolyn's comment that" in a free world, God is not totally in control". I'm struggling with that one. Is it not the wonderful thing about God that He has given us free will? But, if He wanted to, could He not do whatever He likes? Is the fact that there is so much pain in the world, more often that not, due to our own selfishness? We are told that we are distroying our planet but how much do we ourselves contribute to it's distruction? There are so many people dying of hunger but in our Western world, we are told that obesity is a major problem. God doesn't need to sort these problems out, we do, yet we don't! I'm also struggling with the question of the Tammy who cannot have children and would like to share with you the story of a friend of mine. Marianne lost a young child through cancer,I has a married son who has no time for her (even on Mother's Day) but continually asks her for money. Her mother left home to shop but never returned as she was killed in a traffic accident and her second husband left on his bicycle to buy a pot of paint and was run over (literally) by an old lady on medication driving on the wrong side of the road. He was left totally paralised and later died of a lung infection. That's quite a lot for a lady in her 50's but she continues to believe in God and is now helping people who are dying. God did not 'cause' any of those tragedies but He is certainly there with her now.
I heard a missonary yesterday talking of how they punish the children in their home in Africa because, of course, God punishes us - I don't believe that one as, if He did, I should certainly not be enjoying life as I am now!!!
The above seem to be more about God's won'ts so here is a last one (sorry if this is not flowing too well). Every year I go to a Benedictine Monastery and talk at length to one monk in particular. He knows everything there is to know. Last year I spoke of my difficult time as the Sacristan of our church (I'm Anglican, BTW). I had wanted him to suggest that I should leave this church (and make life easier for myself) but he didn't. This year I put the question directly (in case he hadn't understood) and a definate 'no' came back. So, I carry on and try to look at it in a different light. It is not easy, but I do feel it is what God wants me to do and maybe one day I will know why and maybe I won't, but that's ok.

P.S. there doesn't seem to be a spell-checker on this, so please excuse my awful spelling, thanks!
 
Posts: 26 | Location: Switzerland | Registered: 29 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Following God's will concerning the choice of my state of life consisted of several "signs" or components: a felt presence of Jesus over several months, a spiritual guide, scripture and of course God's patience. I have not doubted that choice I made 20 years ago this summer to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita.

The area of discerning God's will that seems most elusive for me today is discerning the "personal vocation" God has in mind for me. The state of life choice has been made. Now my questions are more along the line of "what is God asking me to do within this chosen state of life?" "What ministry, what education, what justice issue is God willing for me?" "In what manner am I to be God's hands, feet, instrument to those around me?"

I find discerning God's will about my personal vocation to be much more difficult to feel sure about than the state in life decision. Surely, just as real and important, but more elusive.
 
Posts: 23 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you for the reply, Phil! I always joke that after awhile, I learned to dance and learned to love it. There was pressure.
More seriously now, I love the Thomas Merton prayer from "Thoughts in Solitude." When I read the prayer quite awhile back, it spoke to my busy mind that maybe it was okay to not understand everything. The prayer begins with, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.......Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you.....And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it." This prayer and others that I believe God sent to me, gave me much needed peace and helped me accept without understanding, which was a big step in my spiritual growth.
I used to think of God as sort of a trickster. I would always laughingly say, "I know God speaks to me, but he speaks in a foreign language that I cannot understand." I am grateful that I came to know Him as a friend, always with me, but not taking the pain away because that is how I grow.
I would just seek to feel him closer in my life. I guess that is what brought me here. Thanks,
Janice
 
Posts: 10 | Registered: 14 February 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Janice,

I love the Thomas Merton prayer as well. It's
full of humility, which is one of the many virtues that I love about Merton.

Thanks for bringing that up
Carolyn
 
Posts: 8 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sue,

I think you just did a very good explanation
of how God is not totally in control. It is not God's will that people are born with mental or physical illness/difficulties. It is a result of the creation not being perfect. However, it is God's will that we allow the suffering to transform us to be more like Christ. We always have the choice to consent to God's grace to enable transformation of our soul. A relationship of love requires mutual giving and consent. It cannot be forced.

Carolyn
 
Posts: 8 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I have been asked two questions so I will answer them here.(Phil- please let me know if this is the wrong place)
First Anne- Hi Anne, a 'day mother' is what the French and the Swiss call someone who looks after children in their home and is as a like a mother to them whilst their own mother is working. In my case it is often from 07.30 - 18.00 three or four times a week.

In answer to Carole - Hi Carole,
I'll give you an example of something that I thought was a gift of God, only to find that it was far from that: my daughter eldest daughter was amongst the 10 best swimmers of her age group in Switzerland.Her father and I were approached by a trainer who asked us to join his club saying he would make her an Olympic champion. This seemed such a wonderful chance for our daughter and, in my mind, had to be a gift from God; trouble was I never asked Him!! I just thanked Him for such a wonderful gift. Our daughter went to the club for a trial session and I remember telling her she was to say if it didn't suit. Much later I heard this trainer talking about another trainer in a mocking fashion, how the man prayed with his team before a competition. At that moment I had a terrible feeling of having got it wrong. There were lots of other examples, but that was the worst. Talking to my daughter recently, (now an adult) she told me how she hadn't wanted to join but had done so as she felt it was what we wanted of her. Not only had I not talked to God about it, I obviously hadn't even bothered to talk to my daughter in a correct way.
 
Posts: 26 | Location: Switzerland | Registered: 29 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi Sue,

Thanks for responding with that example. Now I understand what you meant! I have made similar types of misunderstandings myself, and I suffered dearly for some of them.
 
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First Anne- Hi Anne, a 'day mother' is what the French and the Swiss call someone who looks after children in their home and is as a like a mother to them whilst their own mother is working. In my case it is often from 07.30 - 18.00 three or four times a week.

Hi Sue,

Thanks for the explanation. I thought that might be what it meant, but was curious to know for sure.


Anne
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I am still trying to figure out which entry pertains to which conference, so please bear with me. I was reading an article this morning and came across a definition of God's will which gives me peace. "The will of God for you is the ceaseless longing of the creator to fulfill himself in and as that which he has created. God's will for you is so intense, so continuous, that it even filters through your willfully closed mind." "...we are not lonely pilgrims on the path, trying to reach something in God. We are dynamic expressions of God on the quest to know and release something in ourselves. We may limit the flow of good, but we can always know the truth and be free. God's grace is like living in a house with every door and window tightly closed. Invariably, there is enough air leaking in around doors and windows so that your oxygen needs are met."

Considering this, I think the reason it gives me peace is that it gives me the impression that success or failure is not entirely in my power. There was a time in my life where I was afraid of "me." I know this sounds weird. However, my self-esteem was so low I was afraid I would somehow do something to "mess everything up for me with God." Through searching, what I found and what I believe is right for me, is that God does for me what I cannot do for myself. He will reach me in spite of myself. Looking back over these conferences, the Jansenist theory clicked so well with me when I was young because of the self punishment tendency that occurs with Obsessive-compulsive Disorder that "bloomed" when I was in my teen years.

For me to establish a relationship with God, I need to believe that as the article states, "Grace, as the divine favor, the activity of God's love, is working for you constantly. It is not dependent upon any special faith or prayer on your part. Like the buoyancy of water that will keep you afloat even when you try to force yourself under, grace fulfills divine law by sustaining you in spite of yourself. You don't have to earn grace. It comes to all alike, because all are expressions of God."

When I could relax a little more, I could feel God a little more. When I felt all depended on me doing the right thing, finding the right way, I felt doomed. It seems that when something depended on me, I would give up before trying.

So in trying to discern God's will, it was necessary for me to stop trying so hard. I hope this makes some sense to some of you. I read the article and it seemed to give me the freedom to articulate my spiritual journey. Thank you for listening.

Janice
 
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Janice, I think the image of God's grace as a force ever working within us can indeed be a consoling one. Our images of God's will are related to our image of God, and if we conceive of God as someone we need to "wake up" in order to respond to our needs, that will certainly influence our notions of God's will. The article you reference seems to have a notion of God's grace that is very similar to the Christian understanding of the Holy Spirit. In fact, grace and the Spirit are not separate, and the Spirit is constantly at work within to move us closer to God.
 
Posts: 3522 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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