in our dcla program planning meetings, we had a very interesting theological discussion. it actually surfaced out of our opening time of prayer, when we first gathered. and it continued, in one form or another (serious dialogue, childish teasing) for the three days we were meeting.
several people joined in, but it was primarily one other guy (a good friend, whom i love dearly) and me who were strongly disagreeing.
now, i’m going to lay it out here, to the best of my ability, and would love to hear input, feedback and response. i say “to the best of my ability”, because i’m sure i will, to some extent, create a caricature of both his input (in a negative way) and my own input (in a positive way).
also, i should say, it was a really fun disagreement, healthy dialogue, and made us both wrestle quite a bit (and, i think, the others in the room).
it started when he prayed something like, “God, we know you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and we are unnecessary to your plans….”
after the prayer, we started talking about the dcla content, and i interjected that i’d like to have a bit of a discussion about our perspectives on the implications of us joining up with the active work of god in the world, because that’s a big theme of the dcla content we’re developing. i asked my friend to restate and unpack what he’d prayed. he explained that he used to be driven by obligation and guilt, but that he doesn’t see god that way anymore (good so far). he said he’s so deeply come to believe in the sovereignty of god (still good) and the idea that god doesn’t “need” us (yup, still good) that he believes god will accomplish what god is going to do in the world whether we join god in this work or not (hmmm).
we had a bunch of discussion about the difference between being guilted into obedience and viewing joining god’s kingdom work as an opportunity, or invitation. all good. he explained that he thinks the reason for us to live in a kingdom way is that it brings congruency to our lives, as we live into the way we were created to live (i’m great with that, but it brought a nagging question).
i wondered, “does that mean you think we don’t actually play a role in adding to the work of the kingdom?” “no,” he said, and went on to share this illustration:
when his daughter was 2, he was doing some work in her room. and he noticed that she was standing off to the side, mimicking his movements. he thought this was sweet. then, he started painting some trim work, and she wanted to paint also. he said, “no honey, you’re a little kid, and painting is adult work.” she started crying, and his wife piped in, “just let her paint.” so he gave her a little brush, and a little bowl of paint, and she went to it, messily painting a small section of the wall. he kept telling her what a great job she was doing. he moved to a roller, and gave her a tiny roller also. while continuing to tell her what a wonderful job she was doing, he painted over the portion she had painted, so the end result was what he had always planned.
he said that this is what god does with us.
i tried to restrain myself, but said something like, “that’s horrible! it’s manipulative and a lie!” i went on, “i was hoping you were going to say, ‘when i got to the section she’d painted, i painted around it, framing it. it wasn’t as smooth as the parts i’d painted, but it was her contribution to the plan i already had to paint the wall. the wall was going to get painted either way, but i allowed her to contribute. AND, the wonderful thing is that, for years after that, we cherished that little less-than-perfect portion she painted, which made the wall something our family valued even more.”
my point is: while i agree that our joining up with god’s kingdom isn’t about guilt or manipulation or “duty”, i think that god invites us — gives us the opportunity — to participate in god’s kingdom work in a way that implicates the outcome. this doesn’t change the idea that god is sovereign, or that god is capable of doing what god intends to do. but we are — i believe — really and actually participating in the outcome. in other words, i think we are given the opportunity to play a participative role that changes the outcome, or, at least, becomes a part of the outcome.
we didn’t come to agreement on this, but it was a great and spirited dialogue.
so, what do you think? am i nuts? am i a heretic?