Saturday, 7 December 2013

Can God Do Anything He Wants?

When I was a kid in Sunday School, the first things they taught us about God were these:

1) God can do absolutely anything He wants
2) God loves you (if you live to please Him)
3) You can ask God absolutely anything you want and He might do it.

Of course, a lot of people just said "Well, that's some awfully nice stuff to think about. For the hour" and went on with their lives.  Some of us, many of whom wanted to be friends with Spider-Man and the Hulk and Batman at that time, also wanted to be friends with a God of Whom these three facts were true.
    But then as so often happens, trying to actually see if these three things were really true messed up everything.  I believed that God could do absolutely anything He wanted.  I believed that He loved me.  And so I asked Him for things.  
   Sometimes just silly little things, but sometimes for the things that mattered more to me than anything else in the world.  And most often, almost always, I really didn't get what I asked for.  At all.  This made me wonder what to do with the above list of things. 
    Starting at the end of the pre-school Sunday School list, I was tempted to decide that maybe you couldn't ask God for much of anything after all, without being guaranteed disappointment.  God had a Plan, and wouldn't tell you what it was, clearly, and so you had to leave Him to it.  He wouldn't tell you what it was, even if you prayed about it all day for weeks, and He wouldn't alter it, so what was the point of praying?  What could you do when you had problems?  God had planned these problems, apparently. He put thorns into flesh and demanded they stay dug in there good.
     This led fairly logically to the second step.  Maybe God didn't love me.  Not really.  Maybe He used to, but He just didn't like me anymore.  Or maybe He kind of loved me, but was really angry at me all the time, because I liked stuff I wasn't supposed to (like Spider-Man).   In fact, if #2 wasn't exactly true, then what difference did #3 mak anyway?  
   I was raised to believe in a God who loved me as to Afterlife, but didn't like me one bit as to after dinner.  He loved me so very, very much that He wasn't, after all, going to torture me for all eternity, probably.  But He was absolutely going to require me to torture myself (and let other people torture me) especially at church, and just in general.  Life was a form of purgatory.  Saying no to joy pleased Him.  And if I didn't do that, He wouldn't really like me.  Wouldn't send me to Hell, and I could live a life free of the tortures/penances/sacrifices/martyrdom of church people and my culture, but I'd always know that He didn't like me any more and wouldn't give me anything I asked.  Which He'd never done anyway.
  So, if I didn't want anything that He wasn't already giving anyway, then things were cool.  But if I wanted something I didn't already have, or which Christians weren't supposed to want because it was fun, then I couldn't have anything I wanted.  That all seemed pretty dumb. What was the point?

Thing is, though: what if #1 isn't true?  Then #2 and #3 can be true after all.  (I feel like C.S. Lewis, arguing like this)  Because if #2 isn't, practically speaking, true, if God doesn't exactly like you, apart from not sending you to Hell, and is always disappointed in (grieved with) you, having had NO IDEA what kind of person you'd grow up to be when He sent His Son to die for you, then #1 and #3 aren't really important at all.  
   But what if #1 isn't, practically speaking, true, and #2 and #3 are?
   What if, in order to let us be, to let us grow, to let us live lives, to let us play any part in our lives at all, God chooses to, and kinda "needs to" not force us in any number of ways?  What if He has to wait, too, to do things the way He does them?  What if, in order to have the relationship, dynamic (and creation) that He wants (because He knows it's good) He needs to let us name the animals, bargain like Abraham, question like Job, over-reach and blurt things out like Peter, so that we eventually find ourselves getting to the point where we can make certain choices that would not previously have occurred or appealed to us?
   Maybe He has to help us grow to the point where we even think to, feel like, and become able to actually make choices that work for Him.  Maybe He has to "wait" too.  For us. Like us.  Maybe if He forces us, or utterly thwarts us, that defeats His purposes utterly.  Maybe if He keeps us from screwing up, from hurting ourselves, our planet, animals and other people, this defeats those purposes.  So, maybe He lets us do horrible things and doesn't stop us, and is there when we need to dig our way out.  Maybe He humours us as we pursue worthless things.
   So maybe God can only in theory do anything He wants, but in practice, there are any number of things that He wouldn't do, because they'd defeat What He's Up To.  Maybe He sees good, and wants us to see it too, and be involved in it.  (I know.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Trying to believe the bible, here.  Let me know what works for you, for decades and decades.)
   So if #1 isn't practically true, then #2 and #3 might be.  And I want them to be true.

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