Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy Will be done
It’s been some time since I last posted on this series for the Lord’s prayer. I had previously entertained several directions to take this line about God’s Will on the heels of my last post regarding God’s Kingdom. But this part of the prayer took on a different, definitely more personal, meaning for me more recently. I’ve come to a new place in the adventurous, anxiety-teeming waters of the search and call process. I’m out of the background checking, reference gathering, resume submitting stage and onto the next one when I begin to hear from, talk with, and respond to churches.
It would be unprofessional, unethical and in bad faith to speak about the discernment process in any specific detail. Still, I can admit that this process sheds new light on the difficulty of discerning and making life-directing decisions in conformity with God’s Will (isn’t that what answering a “call” is all about in the ministry world?)
As I began the search and call process (as it is known in my denomination), I entertained questions like: How can I put my best foot forward and still present myself honestly? Even if a church seems perfect, and even if I seem to fit there, how can we (both parties) ever really know if we aren’t simply entertaining our own delusions of grandeur? Just how might we be assured that a church, city, community is a “right fit”? What are faithful criteria to evaluate a church and a potential ministry? Is there a perfectly clear direction to go, or are all our decisions plagued by the deep ambiguity of human life?
Sorting through these questions still seems important (and maybe reframing them and adding to them is equally important). My hunch is that no matter what decision we make, whether it is with respect to profound moments of “call” or more mundane matters like which kind of gum to select (winterfresh or spearmint?), all our decisions are subject to second-guessing and reinterpretation in light of unforeseen circumstances (I knew I should have went with winterfresh!). Sometimes, maybe most times, I’m more worried about getting it “right” than discerning what God’s presence is doing with me now. To be frank, I’m often more focused on the future (is this the right place where God will use me?) than on the present (what is God doing with me here and now as I entertain the future?).
I suspect that I will need to be less preoccupied with the exact details of a perfect future, and more concerned with attending to and responding to the Holy prodding that (has been and) is already at work on me. In other words, discerning and conforming to God’s Will may be less about me getting it “right” and more about me becoming responsive. This crystalizes when I remember the Will and Way of God has a past (it doesn’t begin with my future). By faith I recall that God’s Will is already (even if not yet entirely) “done” in Christ Jesus. God’s redemptive love has already come near, so near as to make me one of God’s own by God’s own Son. No decision about ministry can occlude the “rightness” already won in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I need not be right, I need be responsive.
This doesn’t take away from important decisions that must still be made. And I will certainly be blown about by unexpected twists and turns along the way. But I am suggesting that an important, deeply theological, shift occurs when we move from a posture of rightness to one of responsiveness before God. The living out of God’s Will simply does not hinge on my every move, even if it is wide, deep, and gracious enough to include me in its unfolding. For me, to pray “Thy Will be done” means giving vigilant attention to the presence of God moving in, through, and all around me. My responses to God’s presence and movement cannot escape specific decisions–responding must take a concrete direction–but my decisions don’t make or break my “rightness.” God will surely make use of me wherever I end up; and God will surely present redemption in the thicket of poor decisions.
I’m beginning to feel the subtle warmth of God’s Will as an always, already, gracious promise. And I’m more and more getting out from underneath the distorted feeling of God’s Will as the crushing weight of a boulder I vainly hope to move with just the right push. No more heavy lifting for me. God’s Will, like Jesus’ yoke, is light and easy because it rests on something other than me. So may I listen, search, discern, and respond.
And may I truly, right now, pray the promise, “Thy Will be done.”