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God and grocery lists

How do you talk to your spouse? Before you were married, it was probably normal to write messages like “Hey, I miss you! I look forward to seeing you tonight!” After you got married, how often do you say the same thing? Do the majority of your messages consist of grocery lists now? “Hey, can you pick up milk on the way home? And don’t forget to check the air pressure in the tires.”

How many of us talk to God in the same way? “Hey, God, I’d like a new job and a car that runs. Oh, and while you are at it, world peace.” How often do we see God like this? Even if all the things are not self-centered, this still seems to be a limited way to view God.

This is our Creator. Who are we to order God around? Who are we to see God as a short-order chef or a servant? In the book of Isaiah we are told that God is the potter and we are the clay. Does the clay dictate to the maker what it should happen to it?

It is that sense of trust that is the goal. It is so hard to be that clay. It is so hard to relax fully into the experiences of life and trust that everything is going the way it should. Our perspective is very small. We can’t see it all. In many ways I think that is a blessing. I don’t want to see it all. What I can see I’m not very good at taking care of. I don’t have pets or plants for that very reason. So I like the idea that I’m not in control. I like the idea that I’m not driving the bus. So much for “Jesus is my copilot.” Drop the sense of control entirely and let Jesus take over.

I suspect this is part of what people who aren’t Christian see as being wrong about the faith. They look at the idea of having an “imaginary friend” being in control as the same as being a zombie. There must be some voodoo that the minister does that makes all the believers like sheep, like followers, rather than active participants.

Yes, we are sheep, but we have chosen to be this way. It isn’t something that any minister has done to us. It is something that we have chosen. Now, if I intentionally give over my power to someone who I recognize is more powerful, isn’t there a paradox? It wasn’t taken from me. I gave it away in that whole “free will” thing. And yet I’m still me. I’m still the same person. I’m an active participant in creation. I choose to yield to my Higher Power to use AA talk.

I used to fight against God. I used to not trust where God was leading me. I’m still not very good at praying about my actions before I do them. I have a suspicion that part of it is that talking about God isn’t really something that is done in the Episcopal Church. Oh, sure, we read from the Bible. We sing hymns saying how great God is. We have pre-written prayers for almost every occasion. But actual, unscripted God-talk? That is totally awkward. Telling people about how God has shaped your life isn’t really an Episcopalian kind of thing to do. It is more Pentecostal than high-Protestant.

But God is real, and God does move in our lives. Sometimes it is painfully obvious. Sometimes it is really hard to see unless you journal and start to notice a pattern. Sometimes the only way to see it is to make a regular habit of praying and being thankful.

I like the Jewish concept of giving thanks before everything. Note the direction here. Thanks before – not after. This is like writing a thank-you note for your birthday present before it is even bought and put in the mail to you. But when you give thanks for something before you get it, you are then in a position to actually receive it. The idea of giving thanks before meals was explained like this – if you do this, you are proving that you aren’t an animal. Only animals snarf up their food as soon as they can see it. They greedily devour it and pay no attention to where it came from. Part of being a human is trying to rise above our animal natures. We want to think we are better than that. We want to think we have self-control .

But we humans don’t have self-control. We have the illusion of it. We think we are in charge of our lives. We don’t even have control over our own bodies. The smallest hunger pang makes us rush for a meal. When we go to a buffet we eat three plates instead of one. “I couldn’t help myself” is our battle cry for self-pity. So even those who think they are independent really aren’t.

I’d rather be honest about the fact that I’m not in control. Then I want to try to be thankful all the time that I’m not in control. Then I want to work towards harmonizing my desires with God’s desires. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say “Thy will be done,” not “my will be done.” I remember a prayer a long time ago that went like this – “I will to will Thy will.” The idea is that instead of getting what I want, I want what I get. This may seem very passive, but it is actually very freeing. It gives up the desire to control outcomes. It gives us new eyes to appreciate what is actually there.

Now, about that world peace…

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