Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Divine Plan

"Blossoms in the Wilderness'
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

Over the past few days my Facebook feed has been flooded with stories and postings about a friend of mine who was just ordained a bishop. Yesterday I was particularly struck by a comment someone had made to one of the postings: “You’ll do great things because you were meant to be a bishop - this was always in God’s divine plan for you.” While I think this new bishop may indeed do great things, I’m not at all sure about what it means to say that God has a divine “master” plan for any one of us.

For one thing, I do not think of “God” as some sort of Super Being who sits at the great control room in the sky with blueprints for the whole world in hand, pushing buttons to make things happen according to “his” divine plan for the lives of every single individual. Furthermore, this notion of a divine master plan may also prove to be spiritually dangerous: If you are always looking for what God has “planned” for your future, you may well forget about where you are in the present and a spiritual path always keeps us mindful of the present. 

Priest and author, Barbara Brown Taylor offers this insight:

One common problem for people who believe that
God has a particular job in mind for them
is that it is almost never the job they are presently doing.
This means that those who are busiest trying to figure out 
God’s purpose for their lives
are often the least purposeful about the work they are already doing.

I find great truth and wisdom in this insight. From my experience, people who talk about God’s plan for their lives are oftentimes unsatisfied or bored with the life they are currently living, and so they turn to dreams of some bigger and better future that they think “God” may have in mind for them: “God wants me to be a priest or God’s plan is that I should become a bishop, God wants me to get a different job or perhaps God wants me to buy that new house I’ve been looking at.”  As I see it, much of the time what is seen as “God’s plan” is often little more than an individual’s personal agenda in life.

On the other hand, I do believe that “God” abides in all that happens. God is the Holy Presence, the Abiding energy of Love at the core of the cosmos, intimately present to us in our own individual everyday lives. And so as I see it, the vocation of every human being is not to discern God’s master plan but to be “purposefully” and “intentionally” aware of God’ s ever-abiding presence right in the place where we find our feet are planted when we wake up every morning and step upon the ground where we live.

When I was a college student, a poster on the wall of my dorm room read:

Bloom where you are planted

All these many years later, I still think this is excellent advice. I am where I am and God is right “smack-dab” in the mix of it all. So I try to live my life every day as aware and awake as I can possibly be to what it is that I am already doing.

In the later years of his life, Thomas Merton said:

Finally I am coming to the conclusion in my life
that my highest ambition is to be what I already am.

I say “Amen” to that!

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