By Jerry Romasco
How many times have you heard, or possibly joined in, on agonizing over some life path determined by “God’s will?”
When I first became a Christian as a teenager, I prayed and prayed if I should date so and so. After sensing a leading to professional ministry I agonized for so long desiring to hear, “Yes, child, do this next.”
What made this all the more agonizing at times was when I did feel like I heard something more clearly, so why not for these other minor to major life choices? Please tell me I’m not alone.
There are threads throughout the Bible that began to chip away at what I’ll call “will exchange,” where I pray enough, be righteous enough so as to not “clog the lines of discernment,” and if I keep at it enough then God finally tells me what’s supposed to be next.
I began to see a God that trusts, takes risk with, and animates towards wholeness. A God that instead of holding poker cards to the chest desires nothing more than to share in what comes next. A generative and dynamic God instead of a mechanical and Minority Report God.
I remember one semester when some of my graduate students wanted to focus on “the will of God” for the semester in our Bible studies. What developed out of that study was a simple reframing of “will of God” to “desire of God.” Desire held less mystery in how it hits angsty souls taught to do the will exchange with God. How do we understand the desire of God?
There are lots of ways we can begin to answer this but to name a few:
- Mutuality among humans in guarding and working the land (Genesis 1-2)
- Caring for those most vulnerable within society (Too many to name!)
- Eat, drink, and be glad along with work within our lifetime (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
- To fully receive and give the love of God in community back to God (paraphrase of love God with your whole self and love your neighbor as yourself)
Throughout scripture, the desire of God is generative life for all in concert with God. So that gets the macro, but what about the seemingly micro things for my own life? I still must know what comes next!
I think there’s a classic lifting of the proverb “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) to mean “you can never trust your own decision making.” I think this sets a dangerous precedent. There have been too many times where “God told me” becomes power over, unquestionable, and potentially abusive, even to ourselves. How else are you to engage with “God told me” when the will exchange is your only framework? Equally, never spending time being shaped in prayer, community, love, healing, seeking justice, etc. can leave our decision-making process potentially wanting.
What if we received from God what has always been there? Trust. God has entrusted us over and over and over throughout the Bible to receive and practice the love of God. The Spirit is the seal of this trust. God is ever so active, inviting us to become life generative people with Her. What does this mean for our life decisions?
Be creative and life generative. Make mistakes but recover and learn from them. Try stuff. Admit being completely wrong. Humility and curiosity. Gratitude. Take the time you need to discern with others, but don’t erase yourself. Vulnerability. Community among those you trust.
If no one else will tell you, be free of the tyranny of the agonizing will exchange that would tell us to erase ourselves; that we are untrustworthy. God desires us. God desires you. It’s time to practice generative mutuality.
Jerry Romasco is a minister with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries. He’s a developing writer who seeks justice through right relationships. Jerry and his wife, Faith, currently live in Washington State, USA.