Thursday, March 20, 2008

Theology in Sound of Music and Knowing the Will of God

I am directing the spring musical at my school and this year we are performing the Sound of Music. At one point in the musical, Maria is asked by Mother Abbess what the most important thing in life was. Maria responds, “To find out what was the will of God and then go and do it.” I don’t think she was right, though. The most important thing in life is to glorify God.

The question of how do we know what God wants us to do is a tricky issue, one that bestsister and I have been discussing on this blog. When I ask myself what God wants me to do, there are often three reasons for asking. Two “wrong” reasons and one “right” reason.

The first wrong reason is that I already know what God wants me to do, but I am hoping for a different answer. The other day I was trying to “get out” of a commitment; I thought I would seek the advice of a friend, but then I decided not to. I already knew what my friend would say, so I wanted to find some other friend who would give me the advice I wanted to hear. Sometimes my search for God’s will is like that. What I need in these situations is a heart that loves to do what is right. This comes with daily dependence and communion with God in prayer and through His word.

The second wrong reason I seek the will of God is that I have an over inflated view of myself and I want to do something “more religious” that what I am currently doing; something big and dramatic and “über-godly.” Like Maria in the Sound of Music, she desires the overtly religious life of a Benedictine abbey. Marrying the Captain and being a mother to the seven orphaned von Trapp children seems too temporal and secular. While Maria was mulling this choice, she says, “I’ve pledged my life to God’s service. I’ve pledged my life to God.” Mother Abbess replies, “My daughter, if you love this man, it doesn’t mean you love God less.” I have often debated whether I should be a pastor or a teacher; somehow the role of a pastor seems to be a far more spiritual application of my gifts. The Abbess’s response to Maria is the same for me: just because I teach high school English doesn’t mean I am serving God less.

Another way to say this is a lack of contentment for where God has placed me NOW. I think I sometimes say, like the ear in Paul’s metaphor for the church, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body.” The idea is absurd. I need to view my “calling” within the body of Christ, manifest in the local assembly of Christians that I am a part. I can teach and preach and minister to the body of Christ whether I am a vocational or lay minister. I need to suppress my need to find “individual” fulfillment; God has called me to be part of His Church. I think many North American Christians (myself included) buy into the “cult of the individual” and view themselves as islands. We are not mavericks who need to “do something great for God.” I am not Indiana Jones, snapping my bullwhip and battling the dark forces of Nazis (or Soviets in the new instalment of the franchise) for “fortune and glory.”

The consumer-like approach to church life (cp. “church-hopping”) is epidemic in the Western church. Christians choose churches based on whether there is a hockey team or mid-morning snacks. These are Christians, not unbelievers. Unbelievers, I think, look for genuine people who live life well… ordinary life. On an individual level, Christians assess where they should “invest” their gifts for the best spiritual return. But Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Co 10:31). As C.S. Lewis writes, “All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God… and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not.”

The third reason—the right reason---for seeking the will of God is if God opens a door of opportunity. It is handy when He closes another door, so you have only one option to choose from. But what if there are “two answers”, like the old Hokus Pick song of the same name.

Hmmm. Cliff hanger...

Alas, this post is getting too long already! The third reason, I need to leave for another post. In a nutshell, I think the filter for all choices and decisions needs to be, Am I doing this for His glory? Am I glorifying God by doing or not doing this or that? This includes, is it biblical, am I trusting God, am I waiting on Him, am I walking in His spirit, am I obedient to His clear commands, am I adding to His commands, am I content with where I am right now...?


Jeremy W. Johnston said...

Hey Barb,

There is no subliminal messages in this post aimed at you... (you know, the 7 von Trapp children, etc.)... This post is purely autobiographical musings... megalomania, if you will.

Mike Wilkins said...

"Pastor, teacher....techer, pastor..." I feel your pain. Maybe we should talk! (Again!)

Meanwhile, A Solemn Good Friday and a good Happy Easter to you and Laurie and the adorable rugrats!

Mike Wilkins said...

Ooops. Alas. I am what I am, a good speller but a not-quite-good typer! ("Techer," sheesh!)

Jeremy W. Johnston said...

A happy Easter to you too. Nice mug-shot! You're stepping up in this blog world.

I would love to talk (again!). By the way, I was up in your old stomping grounds about a month ago. I preached at Bethel in Kingston. About half the congregation consisted of Queens, RMC and Laurentian students. Brian Worrad's father is the current interim pastor. Apparently Brian referred me (did you have something to do with this?). It was a great experience. The congregation was receptive and engaged.

On a related note, I was listed as Dr. Johnston in the bulletin...of course I didn't bother to correct them...just kidding.

Dr. J.W. Johnston, Esq., etc.

Barbara said...

Okay. So attempt number 1 at figuring out the mess going on in my brain is now posted....

And by the way. I don't take any subliminal messages out of the 7 Von Trapp children. Their mother had 7 and then died. Her decision whether to have more or not was made for her. And Maria probably saw raising 7 children as penance for her lack of discipline in the Abbey...well, okay. I could maybe relate to that.