Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
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Instead, often I feel a little like a stone in a creek or maybe a fish swimming up stream. I know I’m not able to change the flow of the brook or the current of the river. That’s going to keep moving. It just feels like I’m expending a lot of energy trying to counter an immutable flow. And I can tell you, even trying is pretty rough. As a matter of fact, not only does it wear me down, but it prevents me from doing a lot of other things that would be a lot more beneficial to everyone. But that’s not what I’m doing. Instead I’m in the middle of the channel, battered by a current I can neither stop nor control. Now, I’ve got to tell you, this is how I often feel. But I don’t think I’m alone.
And I think the reason many of us feel this way is fairly obvious. I think we tend to get tunnel vision on what we think we should be doing. You see, we assume that we already know what’s right and appropriate. And if we’re Christians, we take it even further, because we assume we already know the will of God. In fact, often when we talk about it, we affirm our knowledge with so much confidence it pretty much closes off any future discussion. It’s like, “God told me to do it or say that or to go there. And since it was God, not only must you accept it, if something goes wrong later, you can’t blame me. Whatever happens must be God’s will too.” Or at least, that’s what a lot of Christians seem to think. And sometimes we’re right, or as right as anyone can be when claiming to know the mind of God. But other times, well, we’re probably wrong, but of course, we don’t see it. And so we keep going in the direction that we’ve chosen, even though that forces us constantly to resist the flow and battle the current. And since we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re right and the current is wrong, we keep up the struggle until God moves us to exact place we were meant to be. And all the effort and resistance and battling, in the end, it doesn’t mean a thing. But the exhaustion and frustration we feel is real.
And I’ll tell you, that’s the reason I believe that we need to learn how to get out of the way. And doing that starts with recognizing a simply and incontrovertible fact: that God is God and we’re not. I mean, even though we may see ourselves as unbelievably smart and so spiritual that God should be grateful we play on his team, it’s pure arrogance to assume that we can know the absolute and definitive will of God. I think we all know that kind arrogance can get us in big trouble. But instead of digging in our heals and tunneling our vision, we might need to work a little humility into our characters. And then we can pause, broaden our perspective and consider the talents and interests we have and the needs and troubles we face. And then with a clearer vision of the future and our role in it, we can move with and not against the divine flow. And when it seems as though the current is becoming more difficult, our humility will enable us to relax and reevaluate the world and how might God have us respond, even if that means getting out of the way and so that the waters might flow without our permission or help.
And to me that just makes sense, because life is tough enough without having to struggle up stream. You see, when we abandon that arrogant attitude that we already know so that we can humbly look and listen, I believe we’ll all become more useful for God’s kingdom. And I’ll tell you, as I look at my own life, I hope I learn how to relax and get out of the way.