Do I believe in pre-destination? ‘What will be will be’? It’s one of those theological hot potatoes: “if everything is pre-ordained what is the point of trying to reach others with Jesus’ love or praying for change? Of course we have free will and choice!” Yet God is in control and ‘knows the end from the beginning’… so is it all set in stone or does He ever change His mind? Yes, apparently He does – as when Abraham prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18v22-33)! No sorry, that’s not a good example – Sodom still gets destroyed despite God’s willingness to accede to Abraham’s request for clemency – and we just don’t know what would have happened if Abraham had gone for less than 10 righteous. Actually a better example is Lot himself a few verses later, who asked for a place to be spared that he could flee to (Genesis 19v18-21) and saved the town of Zoar in the process! So Father does listen to His children’s requests and one person standing in the gap can make a difference! Why did Jesus tell us to pray, ‘Your kingdom come’ if it makes no difference if we pray it or not?
I am bound to take this stance after all my intercessory efforts – and I naturally take against the Calvanists anyway, with their rigid stance on Scripture and women keeping quiet! Bring on Armenianism, even Open Theology – there is freedom of choice and God is a Person Who partners with us, going with the flow, seeing what will happen, perhaps not fully in control of events…. Aah – don’t like that. Can there be a middle ground? Surely the things foreseen in Daniel and Revelation will happen (whatever all that symbolism actually means) Scripture also says, ‘God is not a man, He does not change His mind’ (1 Samuel 15v29)
The argument goes back and forth: it’s confusing and impossible to work it all out with my puny brain… and anyway, I am supposed to have given up mental gymnastics! God is God and I am not (as Job was told!) so I’ll leave running the universe to Him and simply choose to trust that He is good. Surely that is the test of faith – what I believe about the character of God in the midst of pain and all that I don’t understand? That was where Job finally broke through: “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth” Handel’s Messiah – no, Job 19v25 😉 A final hope that despite all this in the end all will be well.
So I maintain that the Lord Almighty is not a vending machine and there are no formulae – not even “if you have enough faith this will happen”… Jesus always spoke the truth and if its good enough for Him its good enough for me, but what does a mountain falling into the sea look like? A tumour gone or an attitude changed, a soul saved? All I know is, His ways are higher than ours, He is God and I am not. But at the same time I declare that He is a loving Father who pours out grace on all who come to Him, holding the whole world in His hands. I also choose to believe that “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” Ephesians 1v11 and “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8v29-30. This is the glorious good news! ‘Conformed to the image of His Son’ could be a bit painful though and who knows what the plans He has in mind – for our good, of course – will actually entail!
So what’s all this about? It’s April Fools Day. 2 years ago today Sam called down the stairs, “Mum, I can’t see!” and I heard in my heart, ‘From this day on your life will change forever’… He had his first brain scan that afternoon and by the evening we were looking at the huge white patches in his right hemisphere – while the medics said, ‘but it doesn’t look like a tumour’…
It’s easy to feel foolish now and we could blame all the doctors who all got it wrong – including an eminent second opinion at the National Neurology Hospital. But actually, for all sorts of reasons, I am glad we had those 10 months of adjustment and relative freedom before we found out the truth. However the Lord knew all the time – and even long before it happened – that a tumour was growing in our son’s head. Was that ‘ordained’ then? (Don’t go there! Mental gymnastics verbotten!)
One year ago today Sam had the last dose of his course of chemo-radiotherapy. Strangely the 7 week course co-incided with the whole of Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday and finishing on Maundy Thursday. By the last treatment he was at a pretty low ebb: he hated the hospital visits so much and had to grit his teeth to finish the course – the chemo tablets made him lose his taste so he hardly ate and the radiotherapy had killed his hair follicles so he was bald. He was brave, but exhausted, gaunt and miserable and it took several months for all of us to recover from that gruelling marathon. I wrote a story about going to one of the almost daily appointments: Radiotherapy is on the Diagnosis Diary page.
Radiotherapy is ‘ordained’ if you have a brain tumour like Sam’s: it is scientifically recognised as the best possible treatment so A=B. Sam begged to differ, of course, as he always does, but submitted to it for our sake… hmmm. Submission or resignation? This is my BIG question… am I submitted or am I resigned? ‘Que sera sera’ has always sounded like resignation to fate to me and not a Christian approach… I hated that song as a child and still do. Submission to a loving God is surely a different heart attitude and doesn’t that kind of integrity make all the difference?
Through this journey I have wrestled, fought and prayed with all my heart and strength – yet somehow having grace to bow at the altar of ‘Your will not mine be done’. I have handed Sam over to the Lord, as Abraham did Isaac, while continuing to call for faith and thank God for healing him, knowing the Lord has promised to work everything for our good – and I am holding You to that! It has been a constant stretch to the point where I have lost my elasticity. It does feel more like resignation at the moment as the Lord takes me beyond what I thought I could handle… in fact, to be honest, I give up.
I do blog to try to work out what is happening and what I think. But I don’t really want to worry about it anymore! This is it, this is where we are, 2 years down the line. I am not in control – but the Lord still is. I am tired and I have done all I can. Maybe this is exactly where I had to get to… As Richard Rohr wrote in his emailed daily meditations today, “Someone else is holding me.” “Someone is believing in me.” That’s what people who pray always say. “Someone is for me more than I am for myself.” “Someone is with me more than I am with myself.” The river of love is flowing; we are in it.
So I choose to believe that too. Que sera sera.