Two women were praying one day.

One cried out to God, “Oh God, you love me and you love my unborn baby. Please have mercy on us and help me to find a job that will enable me to keep my baby; to feed her, clothe her, and keep her forever.”

Elsewhere a second woman cried out to God. “Oh God, I am unable to have children. Please speed up my adoption process and bring me a child quickly. Fill this empty hole in my heart with a baby who needs my help.”

One year later, a woman was proudly introducing her daughter to her loved ones. “Isn’t she beautiful? For this child, I prayed and prayed. God answered my prayers. It was God’s will that she would be in my arms.”

Elsewhere, a woman sat on a bench with empty arms, listening to a friend,

“God must have better plans for you.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“God shut those doors. It wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Seeking God’s will used to be so simple in my mind.

It was so simple that these pithy, reductionist sayings didn’t seem bizarre to me at all.

But when we choose to see God’s will in everything, while ignoring the futility and despair of this life, we miss God’s will entirely and we lose sight of the hope of the gospel itself.

These are eight myths that I have identified in my life about God’s will and God’s involvement:

1. High school students should know what God’s will is for their lives and choose a college major accordingly.

The decisions we make during our early adulthood (career, marriage, etc.) alter the courses of our lives. But to expect that an 18-year-old would have the perfect life mapped out for himself/herself places too much responsibility, expectations, and false hopes on a young student, setting him/her up for failure and disappointment.

Those dreams look different in ten years, for better or for worse. And there is nothing sacred about the age of 18 in the determination of one’s destiny. Mostly likely, the 18-year-old will get it wrong a few times.

2. God’s plan for me is my vocation.

God’s will is about loving God and loving others. Only in a position of privilege can a person have the notion that work should be some romantic expression of his/her gifts and talents.

3. If you are bored with your job, it must not be your calling, or God’s will for your life.

The gospel does not promise the actualization of our full potential. Many martyrs have died without being able to make a living performing in a band or writing a ground-breaking novel.

We tend to believe the myth that our fulfillment in life involves labor which is creative, stimulating, and success-generating. But the idea that God’s will must involve following one’s dreams contradicts Scripture and disrespects the millions of impoverished people around the world who labor in harsh circumstances every day to provide for their families.

4. Some people have high callings.

God’s will does not have a front row and a back row. Missionary martyr is not first place; suburban housewife or husband is not number 53.

Finding wholeness and love in this life is all there is. There isn’t a bonus level with ninja powers.

5. If God does not want me to do something, God will close the door.

If God always were to “shut doors” on disobedience, then there would be no abuse, no lies, no bank robberies, or littering. God does not close doors to prevent all bad things from happening.

And the converse is also a myth: If all the doors are opening for me, it must be God’s will. Shouldn’t we beware of the illusion of orchestration through circumstances? Sometimes the best things are ruined and all the doors are shut in our faces. Sometimes the worst things open up for us with ease.

6. If something goes wrong, what you are doing must not be God’s will.

Resistance is not an appropriate gauge of the righteousness of a decision, nor is a “sense of peace”. Sometimes resistance proves to us that we are following Jesus. And sometimes resistance happens because this planet is a tough place to live.

7. Everything that happens to me is part of God’s plan.

Things happen to us that are contrary to God’s will. A person neglects or abuses a child. A drunk driver has an accident. God does not cause these things. What if you were supposed to get that job and someone lost the paperwork because this world is a dark place? What if your child was supposed to thrive at birth, but humans don’t always do their jobs perfectly?

What if what happened wasn’t truly meant to be? Is that okay? Can futile, awful things happen in this world?

8. Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Why don’t we put our faith in the Holy Spirit working within us much more than the signs and wonders without? Why do we look for confirmation of God’s will in tealeaves and toast crumbs? Are we really going to take this or that highway because someone had a bumper sticker that seemed like a “God thing”? Why does this seem more like voodoo and less like faith?

One of the most amazing, gospelly books in the Bible, Ecclesiastes, sets us free from the pursuit of meaning in all things. Nothing is new under the sun. Everything is a chasing after the wind. The wisdom in this poetry can set us free from seeing our lives through a Jesus-crystal ball. Sometimes bad things happen and that’s the way this world works. This fallen, dark, corrupt world gets it wrong. Why does that surprise us? Why do we need to explain it away?

The answer I have found to all of these myths is in one statement: This too shall be redeemed.

We do not have to find meaning in every event, every change, every decision, every slight, every loss, every win. We find meaning in watching it all be redeemed in time.

Eventually. Perhaps at the end of all things when things are made whole again.

Elsewhere, a woman sat on a bench with empty arms, listening to a friend, 

“God must have better plans for you.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“God shut those doors. It wasn’t supposed to happen.”

She looked up at this friend and said with sadness and peace, “No, I’m not sure it was supposed to be this way. But this too shall be redeemed.”

 

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Last week we were driving home from a visit with relatives in Chicagoland and after a few hours we drifted off into the fog of road travel. We realized as the sights began to look more familiar that we were driving to the wrong home. We were driving to Michigan. We probably lost an hour, but I laughed about it all the way back to I-80. After living in three states and eight homes in 14 years, it’s hard to remember where home is.

This summer will by my second anniversary of living in New York. And even after thousands of subway rides I am still considered a transplant, an immigrant to the city. The day people started asking me for directions I felt like a legitimate urban dweller, but full New Yorker status may always elude me.

But for my daughter, it’s different. My daughter has been a New Yorker for a longer period of time than she has lived anywhere else. This is the center of her compass.  We have taught her a slogan when she gets tired of walking, “We’re New Yorkers. We walk.” The city is almost all she remembers.

So where is home? Is it my childhood home that winds its way into my dreams regularly? Is it the first home we bought as full-grown, real-life adults? Is it where our extended families live? Is it where we brought our children to sleep for the first time?

For me, it’s all of those places and none of those places.

I have felt home at home and I have felt lost at home. I have felt home in foreign countries, I have felt lost in my own country.  Pinpointing a home on a map is easy, but where does my heart feel at home? Not as easy to mark.

Home isn’t just where I have Wifi and a hot shower.

Home isn’t just where my family sleeps.

Home isn’t just that place that we clean.

Feeling at home is about feeling found, which is why the hymn Amazing Grace resounds with us. We all want to feel found. I have felt found in four states. In eight living spaces. Over 14 years of marriage. I have also felt lost in and among those places. What makes the difference?

Home isn’t a where. Home is a when.

Home is when I am safe to be me, to have my thoughts, to be loved in the fullness of my personality, gifts, and weaknesses; Home is when I serve someone in their need out of my abundance or little extra. Home is when we rest in a shady place before we move on to the next adventure. Home is a bench along the miles of sidewalk. Home is when there is finally peace between opposing forces, even if those forces are within me.

Home is when someone opens a door for the home-less, the refugee, the immigrant. A safe room with a lockable door for the abused child or victim of violence. Home is when a teacher makes accommodations for the struggling child. Home is when a church welcomes all people and means all people. Home is when the privileged are silent and we listen to the voices of the oppressed. Home is when there is love.

Is your home a home?