Derailing Providence

Jn 6:23-24 Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. [1]

How does God direct Providence if He has made manipulating the will of humankind off limits? After all, I am able to choose whether or not I wish to go along with His plan right here, right now…If I choose not to obey, why doesn’t that derail Providence.

I’ve been a little blind…a little, try totally! It has been staring me in the face all the time, but I wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps I wasn’t ready to see it to believe it. Whatever the cause, I now see that God uses all the things, all thoughts, all impressions, all senses, everything around me to encourage, reason, persuade, push, admonish, and otherwise tell us to carry out His will, that it is the best choice for me, that it will lead me to my greatest happiness.

But that final step, that ultimate choice He leaves totally, solely up to me. I can choose to go along with His will or I can, and sorrowfully often do, choose to think that I know better and, instead of seeing the apple for what it is, a temptation against which He lovingly, Fatherly, Motherly warned us…the burner on the stove that I can’t seem to appreciate will burn me until I get burned, I crunch down, know good and evil, and toddle on after the evil Piper.

The evidence was when Abraham sadly trudged to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, it was there in the plagues that Pharaoh chose to ignore, it was there when Job, stripped of every one and every thing, including even his health, chose God, it was there when Mary took on the consequences of being an unwed mother, it was there in the Garden when Jesus ultimately accepted the cup of the Father, and it is right here, right now, in this room at this time…the outward contingencies of life, of providence, of God, calling to me, beckoning me, encouraging me to make the next choice, to choose God, not myself.

These choices come fast and furious: say this, do that, go here, look there…the soul’s GPS [God’s Providential System], my conscience, tries to direct me to where I am suppose to go, to what is truly home, to the eternal happiness God destined me before the foundation of the world [Eph 1:4] to achieve, if I don’t ignore it and head off for destinations conjured up by my own lust for power, honor, wealth, control, sex, drugs, revenge, whatever is my current opiate of the day.

Very interesting, a small choice for “my way or the highway” right at this moment may be destined to bring me to another crossroads where a slightly more impactful temptation looms and must be dealt with, for or against, and so on to the next and the next and the next.

No wonder Paul almost despaired: I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? [Rom 7:23-24]

All three of the Synoptics were reminded by the Spirit to include Jesus’ encouraging answer to escaping this vortex of sin: For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. [Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27] I suspect Spirit really wanted to make sure I got the message. Duh!

When is this ongoing dilemma, this constant barrage, this incessant stream of choices ever going to stop? I think that’s why I thank God for death, when He puts an end to all this and says, “Let’s see how you did.”

In the meantime, I can give thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Rom 7:24a], Paul’s answer and mine to this wretchedness, this mortal conflict. Only through faith in You, Jesus, can I hope to come out of this labyrinthian way[2] alive forever.

In the meantime, I, like Paul, continue to labor under the two minds, the burden of the tares and the wheat of life: with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin. [Rom 7:24b].

I bet you wondered what this has to do with the other boats…..T’was their choice: they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] See the magnificent poem, “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson


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