Just because it was on a whiteboard doesn't make it true...

Maybe it is all the talk about new years and resolutions that has me thinking about this, but when I was a kid in Sunday School, a lot of teaching focused on GOD'S-WILL-FOR-YOUR-LIFE. (You should totally read that in a big, booming voice.) And the idea was presented like this:

1. God has a perfect, wonderful plan for your life. (This is Plan A. Fairy tale ending implied.)
2. If you do anything bad, you will mess that up. (And drop down to Plan B.)
3. Mess that up and He is only able to do so much. (Plan C, D, E, etc.) 
(I have to say, I was very relieved to hear Nancy-the-Insightful laugh out loud when I told her this with an incredulous...WHAT???)

The thing about this teaching is that a) it implies that the goal of life is to do things perfectly; and b) by the time you are 40 you realize it is patently false.

I have come to believe that GOD'S-WILL-FOR-YOUR-LIFE (booming voice) is shockingly ordinary in the things that teenagers typically think about.  After all, you will marry a normal person with all kinds of flaws you won't discover until you actually live with them.  You will probably drive an average car (unless you go into debt up to your eyeballs) and you will have a series of fairly ordinary jobs that will be okay on some days, great on a few and absolutely dreadful on others.  This structure of life is seemingly shaped by your choices, but is hugely influenced by the opportunities that come to you. (ie. if you grow up in a fishing village in the Netherlands, you will probably become a fisherman; if your family is wealthy, they will probably send you to a college that will net you a high-paying job; if your parents are accountants you will likely be taught to balance your checking account and if your parents are artists, you might have to find someone to teach you....).

I've come to believe that GOD'S-WILL-FOR-YOUR-LIFE doesn't have much to do with the structure of your life--after all, there are believers all over the world in every possible profession, marital status, economic situation and education level. I do believe it has everything to do with how you live in that structure.  Doesn't it seem that God would be much less concerned with the job you pursue than with the way you interact with your co-workers and how you talk about your clients? Do you think He might be much less interested in who you marry than in how you show love to them?

No doubt the Holy Spirit works on our behalf.  (ref. Romans 8:26-30) But I don't think it is in buying us cars, or getting us promotions or fulfilling our own personal ten year plans.  The Holy Spirit works in the structures we live in, so that we live a life that reflects God.  And that means our most important choices happen on a day-to-day basis.  And the better we are able to do that, the less the big ones seem to matter.

Sidebar:  My friend Lynette-the-Cowgirl has a theory that the 1970's shaped our religious education. After all, in the wake of the sexual revolution, mind-altering drugs and Ozzy Osbourne our parents must have been terrified for us.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall