Chronicles in Ordinary Time 154: The Plan

Inconceivable

For decades, I have heard religious people say that “God has a plan for your life;” and the worst one, especially after some sort of calamity, ‘it happened for a reason; it’s part of God’s plan for your life’.
I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride:
Vizzini: He didn’t fall? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I think ‘God’s Plan’ is often used in the same sense as INCONCEIVABLE!

Some include ‘calamity’ in “God’s Plan”, as if somehow God desires to destroy the innocent. As if it is the Creator’s desire that homes are being destroyed by the eruption of Kilauea, that non-combatants in Syria are being destroyed by American missiles; that the Rohingya people are suffering tortuous persecution; that one of the foulest dictators alive at this point in time has just been given the legitimacy of being an equal to the President of the United States [something no other President has stooped to doing] and the list goes on and on, to the killing of individual students in schools and the murder of people-of-color carrying cell phones, by white policemen who aren’t punished…
These calamities are not designed by the Creator.

I have to interject here—I was raised by an authoritarian father. He was a good man; I don’t think I can go so far as to say he was a kind man. I doubt that he was ever taught much about kindness. In many ways, I feel as though my life ‘began’ when I left his house and went off to college.
Having been raised this way, I was never partial to simply accepting what some guy on a platform was attempting to teach about “God’s Word”. I struggled with some guy telling me what I was supposed to believe. I rely instead on critical thinking.

“God has a plan for your life.”
“Plan”
Isaiah 14:26
This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. …

Original Word: עֵצָה  [Hebrew]
Part of Speech: Noun Feminine
NASB Translation (instances used)
advice (11), consultation (2), counsel (52), counselor* (1), counselors* (1), counsels (1), designs (1), plan (8), plans (2), purpose (6), scheme (1), schemes (1), strategy (1).

Young’s Literal Translation
This is the counsel that is counselled for all the earth, And this is the hand that is stretched out for all the nations.

52 times in the Bible, the word translated as ‘plan’ means counsel; 11 times it means advice; nothing here implying ‘requirement’.

And then there is ‘God’s Will’
In Hebrew, that which is translated as ‘God’s Will’ in English, actually means ‘to inquire of God’. A question, not a statement.

When it comes to understanding Scripture, English sucks. Being the only language with which I am fluent, this is problematic. Other languages have better meanings. For another example, in Greek there are four distinct words [and meanings] that are translated in English as “love”. Statistically, we get it wrong 75% of the time.

This is a “plan”; I’ve been drawing plans for most of my life—over 50 years.
plan

I have no idea whether or not anyone actually followed this plan… the cabinet maker is a continent away from me. What’s more, I don’t know if this bizarre idea actually worked. A kitchen counter with something like a plank or a diving board off the end. I envisioned the possibility of some very large person standing on the end of that plank, at was about to be the end of a drunken evening… The plank attached to steel tubing attached to steel plating attached to the floor of the kitchen. I guess it was supposed to look cool. I wanted to design it to support a rhinoceros.
A very expensive ‘plan’ that may have had disastrous results.

I know a few people who probably snickered when they read the words above, I rely instead on critical thinking. To them, Faith is totally incompatible with Critical Thinking.

Some will ask if I believe that the Bible [however they define this word] is the Word of God. I believe that the Hebrew Scriptures, and teachings of the New Testament are the Word of God, in their original languages, for the purpose they were intended. The mere fact that one can find a verse in the  Bible that justifies their particular understanding of the world does not mean that this was the intent of the verse.
Do I believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God? No. The KJV is a translation/interpretation of the Word of God. The Word of God is so much larger than a shelf-full of books.

I came to an understanding of the Word of God, but not because some guy on a platform told me that the Book was God’s Word. I mostly came by way of C.S. Lewis, Os Guinness and Philip Yancey, to name a few. Moses Maimonides and Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Nadia Bolz-Weber to name some more… People whose writing, and whose understanding of the Universe shaped my understanding of Scripture.

One of the primary tenets of the Abrahamic Scriptures is that mankind was created with Free Will; and that this Free Will is an aspect of being created in the Image of the Creator—the Imago Dei.
Imagine a chess board. You can move your pieces anywhere you want, on the ‘chessboard’ of your life. Also imagine that you are playing chess with the all-time Great Master of the game of Chess. No matter what move you make, the Master will know what move to make, in order for the Master to win the game. For the Creator, ‘winning’ the Game of Life in which you play, has nothing to do with you losing. We aren’t playing with the President, who only counts his success as winning—the ‘zero sum’ game.

the chess game

The Creator’s greatest joy is for you to accomplish the purposes for which you were designed. That is why you were created.
This eventually leads to the next, highly understandable question: “If God loves me, how could he let [my loved one] die?” “How could he allow this calamity to fall upon us?”

There is no simple answer to this question.
Your life isn’t simply about you.

Your life is also about a thousand interactions with other people, with other creatures on this earth. Your life is about the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of interactions with people and creatures throughout the whole of your life. Everything you’ve ever done, ever read, ever seen, ever touched, is stored in the cells of your brain.
Your life is more than your life here on planet Earth. You have a soul; your soul isn’t limited to the days and months and years of your lifetime. Your soul consists of electromagnetic forces that are formed by all of the thoughts of your brain. You are more than a brain with a body; you are a soul with a brain and a body. Your soul goes on forever, in a form that the human brain can’t possibly understand, as long as we are trapped here in three dimensions, trapped here in space and time.

You are intended to live forever. Even the longest life, lived by the oldest person to have ever lived on this earth, is short, when compared to forever. The longest life will seem like the blinking of an eye, when we are on the other side of this Life. Even the shortest life, lived here on earth, will continue forever. Seconds or decades won’t have an appreciable difference when compared to forever. Life without the limitations of Time.

The most horrid lifetime on this planet will be but a moment in eternal time.

Does this mean we can ignore the most horrible of circumstances on this planet, because they are simply a moment in eternal time? No, because you are affected by everything that touches you. The most horrid experience that happens to someone else, once you know about it, also happens to you. How you respond. Whether it builds you or tears you down. You don’t really ignore the things you want to ignore. This is merely a fiction your brain creates. The reality is that you never forget the things you want to ignore. If you’ve heard it or seen it or heard of it; it is recorded in your brain.
This is part of the reason why we struggle so much with our past. It’s never really our past; it’s part of who we are now.

piggy back draft 5

My vocation, and my avocation [paid and unpaid] is the making of images. Sometimes, when ‘the streams of the Universe’ are running well, I am able to serve The Work. A lot of times I don’t serve the work well. The image above is from a work I didn’t serve well, because of time pressures. A Hiroshima Diary, the true story of a young woman who came to Hiroshima after the Bomb, looking for her niece and nephew. She found hundreds of children, wandering around, looking for their parents. Every child she encounters, dies in her arms from radiation poisoning. It was a story I wanted to tell; I didn’t have the time to serve it well.

We cannot ignore the suffering we bring to this planet by our actions or our inaction.

If you are not incensed by the results of the Summit between our President and the Dictator of North Korea, you may not be paying attention.
This is why it is so important that you vote in the next election; even if you don’t like the person you vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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