[This posting is excerpted from an e-mail sent to me a by former Urban Neighbor who has been in the process of discerning the next steps in his journey: stay in Minneapolis, or return home to the Portland, Oregon area? It is a profound and wonderful reflection on how our lives and "God's will" intersect." The photo is his, too.]
"Most people want to wake up in the morning with a general at the foot of their bed saying 'Go do this.' The problem is there's somebody at the foot of their bed saying, 'Once upon a time. . .' " -N.T. Wright
I've spent the last four and a half months in Minneapolis waiting for the general to give orders. Unfortunately, my general happens to be the strong, silent type. In my mind, the general is a Type-A god with a blueprint and checklist for my life, waiting for me to put tab A into slot B correctly. This picture is entirely unhelpful.
Much of my personal development has taken place in a context of Christian culture where "God's individual plan for my life" was the only approved decision making model and ministry/career path. Whether or not this model is accurate, my experience has shown it to be like attempting to navigate through Yosemite National Park peering through a pinhole. Not only is it extremely difficult to see where I am and where I'm going, but I miss the beauty and grandeur of it along the way. I admit, there are definite bounds for my wandering, basic Biblical guidelines, to be sure. But within this frame of a bigger picture, I've been finding tremendous freedom to explore my place in God's story - perhaps writing a new chapter of my own.
I realize now that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is probably more like a novelist than a civil engineer. He cares less about where we go and what we do as long as the characters develop and the story hangs together as a coherent whole. The only way to ruin this kind of story is to forget who the author is. I used to read the Bible as a scripted play with people simply filling predetermined roles, but now I know it didn't go down like that when they were kicking up dust on the earth. They simply did what they had to do, and often just what they wanted to do. There was a famine, and people had to go where the food was. Someone got kicked out of the house and had to run away to a new land. Men went in search of a wife, and found one (or two). And sometimes, God spoke directly to a person and told him or her what to do. I've decided to experiment with artistic license in this story (giving credit to the author, of course). I'm going to kick up some dust - rather, mud, because I'm moving to Portland, Oregon.