I was sitting with a group of people last week and somehow the conversation came around to the topic of God's will. More specifically, how do you know God's will for your life. Everyone has a story of grappling with that question. Think about your own life, haven't you struggled with this in the past? In our conversation different people shared stories, usually of the "first I thought I should do this but then it seemed like this was the better path" variety.
I have those stories too. In fact, I am kind of living one right now. Should I take a job? Should I take a job in my field that would require more of a sacrifice from my family? Should I take a job outside of my field for which I am overqualified but which will fit more squarely with my family's needs? Should I go back to school for another Master's degree even though the problem isn't that I'm unqualified for the position I want, it's that there aren't many available positions in my field? Should I continue on the path I'm already on and just wait for a perfect position to come along? These are among the questions that march through my head on a daily basis. Do you notice that all of these questions are focused on me? I think most of the time when we think we are trying to figure out God's will we are really focusing on ourselves.
One of the things that I do with my life is teach Children's Church. My class is for kindergarten through 4th grade and it's fun. I think they might learn some things and I enjoy doing it. I teach my class a lot like the children's church classes of my own youth, probably a lot like the classes you went to. The lesson usually revolves around some kind of story. You know, Daniel in the Lion's Den or David and Goliath, something like that. Good Bible stories that hold their interest and, hopefully, teach them something about God.
I've started to wonder, though, if this style of teaching is what leads to the kind of "what is God's will for my life" navel gazing that seems so prevalent. When we teach these stories are the kids really learning anything about God or are they learning about the awesome stuff Daniel did or how cool King David was? Are we teaching kids to expect to do spectacular things instead of teaching them to love a spectacular God? In some ways, teaching this way just feeds in to the feelings of exceptionalism that our culture is already drowning in. We're all going to be cure cancer or go to Mars or play pro ball or be famous. So maybe when we think we're looking for God's will for our lives we're really looking for whatever the thing is that's going to show everyone how great we are.
I think we already know God's will for our lives and I don't think it has much to do with which job to take or car to buy. I think God's will is for us to know Him and to love Him. I kind of relate this to my last post about Genesis as a birth story. If God is Father, don't you think His main will for us is related to our relationship with Him? Think about what you want for your own children. I want my children to grow up happy and healthy. I want them to love me and to want to be with me. I want them to love others well. I want them to introduce me to the people that they love. None of these things have anything to do with whether they are doctors or ditch diggers, those things are just means to accomplishing the other things. Maybe God's will could be understood in that way too.
So, back to Children's Church and how to teach these things. My thoughts on this are really still a work in progress but I wonder if these ideas are better communicated using catechism? I wonder if there is a reason for the questions and answers, if that just fits with how we think.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 1, says, "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever."
Heidelberg's fourth question and answer is, "What does God's law require of us?
Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest and first commandment.
“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’2
“On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets.”
It seems to me that if you knew Westminster's 1st question and/or Heidelberg's 4th then you would already have a pretty good idea of what God's will for your life is. If you are reading this and have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them. Also, if you are interested, I'm thinking of trying to incorporate New City Catechism into my teaching.