What is God’s narrative for us? Years ago, I was asked what my five-year plan was. This was of course about my work life, and where I saw myself in an approximate time of five years. I thought so much of this question, I would apply it to many things I’ve done, some good and some good but with room to improve. In other words, the question is ok, but seemingly lacking something greater. I can see the benefit from a Socratic methodology to disseminating a truth from question and answer, but in the end, it should never just end with an open-ended question. A dream without goals is nothing but a dream, a dream with proper expectation and goal attenuation as an alternative is something I can sink my teeth into. So, what do I mean by goal attenuation? Just this, goals are often left in up in the air as to a proper perspective with meeting those goals, especially when it comes to something we’ve never done before. How can we possibly know what it would take to reach a goal without proper experience? We are constantly increasing sometimes, but mostly decreasing the size of the goal we hope to attain, to make it manageable and accomplishable for us. So, in a manner of speaking, how ridiculous is it really to ask someone, “where do you see yourself in five years?” especially when they are beginning a new job, or at all to an extent? Why are we concerning ourselves with five years from now? I know there are some people who might be thinking, “well, we need some sort of plan, if we want to measure the success of a goal!”, but I would argue, this simply isn’t the case. Live for here, and let God worry about tomorrow. He, got you to today, be thankful, because today, just might be your last day.
Ok, so how does this play into the context of a narrative? I’m sure some people have had instances in their life, where no matter how hard they fight against an unseen force, they seem to be relegated at doing something which they have perceived as being a less than sought after goal. Now, I’m not presuming everyone is right in this assumption, but I’m looking more to those reasonable folks, who have tried and failed numerous times at being anything other than what they are, and still they are no closer to their realized goal and subsequent dream. Some people say this is luck or just how the cards have fallen, but one more explanation and less popular if you read anything from popular culture, is the God narrative. The narrative which intertwines all human existence into one single story and creates a relational wave which is continuously moving throughout all generations up to our current times is a narrative which can only be authored by God. A relational understanding which simply put, is a matter of a domino falling in all directions at once, and still falling in the right direction every time. It’s a little hard to wrap my head around sometimes, but makes sense to me. In other words, had your grandfather not stopped to buy a newspaper and get a hot dog, he might have been killed in a car wreck and never met your mother and thusly you would not be reading these words. Now, apply this context with a billion more layers all with perfect alignment and still they lay balanced and perfect on one another. This is what I mean by narrative. The stories don’t always have happy moments, and even within the sad context of the occurring events, there is some perspective of truth we can all see. Within this truth we do see the context of joy, and further this leads to a happy ending as is our hope, to be in love with the divine creator.
I’ve asked the question, many times, “why are some people’s stories so much more difficult than my own?”, and there simply is no answer to this perfunctory question. I say perfunctory because, what we go through on this earth helps us to grow in a relationship, and so, it is assumed, whatever we are dealt is the best pathway to our redemption in Christ. In my case, I have fallen short of the glory more times than I can count, and in some ways my arrogance has prevented me from doing what I know to be right and yet I still turn away. I also am culpable in practice of acedia, knowing what to do, but failing to do it because of my apathy in God’s will. This isn’t to say I ever didn’t believe, but instead it is a function of my need to alter the path I am walking.
Of course, people who ostensibly disagree, or openly hate the thought of God, utilize the function of pain or suffering, even the utilization of sin to dissuade anyone from a belief in God. The function of pain and sin, is probably the best argument they have. However, within a perspective of narrative, we see this is little more than a footnote to the overall story. Bishop Robert Barron remarks in his “Word on Fire” YouTube series about the narrative being like a book, and in his example Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and ripping a page randomly and in some cases finding the worst points of the book and assuming from the few lines written, the worthiness of the story or if there ever really was an author to the supposed book to begin with. It shows a lack of genuine imagination and understanding of the whole picture. Bishop Barron used this as a small (an I think a brilliant example) way to explain the intricacies in just how we must look at life. It is never just about us or just what we see; God’s narrative is most about what we don’t see and what is happening always. Barron further points out the book of Job where when Job laments his condition, and God answers, the first words are “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?” Job 38:2. We presume our intelligence to be sufficient to understand complexities, but this simply is not the case when it comes to understanding God. We are capable of understanding what is meant to be understood, however in the case of the overall narrative, there are just things we are never meant to understand or know until the time it should be revealed. This doesn’t stop us from trying and asserting we know more. This arrogance is what led the Pharisees to assume because they were lovers of the law, this in turn meant they were lovers of God. Not always the case, especially when they were so willing to kill the divine Jesus because he didn’t follow their laws. I think it would be fair to say, they followed the narrative to its end. Though in the case of Jesus, the end resulted in a glorious day which all mankind could rejoice.
As we place ourselves in the thick of life, we through many experiences gain a general perspective, one which in some cases is jaded and in other cases completely naïve. I’m using the extremes for my purpose (in case you were wondering), so to craft an understanding whereby if the position holds under extreme circumstance it will hold under your own scrutiny. So, at any rate, people must endure terrible pain, and for what reason? So, they might realize the light of God and the way in which it illuminates even the darkest of places. There are countless stories of Jew and Catholics alike assigning their fate in the concentration camps of The Third Reich as being a part of the journey God saw fit as them taking. The Holocaust was awful by any standard we could set in modern times, and yet we still see the light of God shining brightly in those who chose to accept its warmth. Evil exists because people have free will, and within this free well the act of evil know as sin, and sin must be utilized to alter God’s work, namely all of us. As we continue to alter ourselves, from the surface to the soul, our beautiful shape (figuratively speaking as in the shape of a master work of art in sculpture), is tormented into grotesqueness and eventually becomes hideous, yet God never gives up on us. God never looks at our perceived hideousness and says I don’t love you. God, loved us into being, and subsequently allows us the free will to alter everything and look away from the narrative which our life runs continuously.
Ok, with context now, what is your plan today? What are you going to do with the rest of your day today? Do you have responsibilities which take a backseat to your family, but you chose those responsibilities first today? Why not just put those things down, and find out where your family is and for even a brief second, hold them. Consider looking in their eyes, see who they really are, see who you are to them. My wife tells me all the time, I’m too hard on my son, and in some cases, she might be right. Though, I sometimes forget, he is a young man, who is looking to his father for answers and in his search for answers I’m failing him. I must take a step back and realize, I don’t control a single thing, I am here to be transformed in the love of Christ, and realize my sin affects everything as it relates itself to God, and this especially means my relationship with my family. I never knew I was going to be a father of so many kids, or at any rate they would be as wonderful as they are. I never knew I was in God’s grace enough for an angel to be sent my way and one who is as strong as steel and soft as cotton, who stands beside me as we walk through the flames life dolls out to us. I am utterly humbled by my past and poor decisions, and yet, it seems when I think on everything which is God’s narrative, it is for me is to learn humility and cast away my arrogance. I must learn to be a servant as Jesus was a servant to his disciples (John 13:5-15), and especially to my family. I must be willing to serve them with humility and with love if I’m ever to accept the narrative of God.
When we look on our lives we may see points where if we think too hard on, we are in some small way ashamed and disgusted with our behavior, but this is what the great deceiver wants from you. He wants a sense of inescapable guilt and grief whereby you feel there is no way out, or at least there is no redemption. Judas Iscariot (Matt 27:5), takes his remorse and proceeds to find a tall tree and a short rope to handle his problem. Isn’t this something we’re seeing more of these days, more teens who are taking their lives because they don’t have the slightest comprehension of the love and redemption Jesus was offering by hanging on the cross. Do you talk with your children about the amazing sacrifice and then redemption of Christ? Our children need to know this, even a child can have a sense of longing, which a parent can’t fill, a void in search of truth, a void in their heart in search of love. Love is God, and essentially speaking, God is all which is ever needed to fulfill our hearts desire for unmitigated love and acceptance within the confines of the narrative we live and the scope of eternity.
God’s narrative for our lives is one which touches every person we meet and every person they meet. Our decisions as men, fathers, and husbands is a fundamental understanding of the foundation within our faith and within our society. We when we shirk our responsibilities through selfishness or through apathy, we are bound to be the recipient of two negative impacts either directly or indirectly. The first being a society where the men in the society looking out only for their selfish needs, is bound to have diminishing returns as it pertains to everyone looking out for themselves instead of the whole. Much like we are all part of the body of Christ, what we do as an action for or against another is bound to have an impact overall on of the body. The second, is an apathy to do what is right, again is bound to have an impact. When we fail to create trust, and fail to do what is right, those who are affected, and this is all of us for sure, begin to think we are the arbiters of our own fate and we must take things into our own hands, which goes into the premise of believing we are our own gods, and we will decide what happens to us. It starts with us, men, and creating a society or culture where men are leaders and yet still the focus is all, must be put into motion. I’m not suggesting men take over the world, but rather, be responsible for our actions, be selfless when it comes to our time and our families, and finally recognizing we don’t control our fate as much as we’d love for this to be the case. We are on a ride called Earth, and it will take us where it sees fit. Within, our faith we can handle whatever the ride brings along the way, and we can accept with love those who enter our paths.
As men with families, we are bound in a covenant (as married men), to watch over our family, and protect them. I’m not referring to “get your gun, shoot, and ask questions later” mentality, but to do the hard stuff. Pray unceasingly for your family, pray for their souls, pray for their lives as they pertain to the narrative of God. Pray for those who would do us harm, and who have harmed. The greatest show of love is to pray for the person who is unrepentant has taken everything from you. You will still bless their life and wish the absolute best because as much as it pains you to say this, they are also a creation of God, and beloved in the sight of God.
Remember, the narrative will have ups and downs, but it is up to you to find your joy. It is up to you to seek the face of God. It is up to you to set things right in your life, even if someone else has dealt you a rotten hand. Not all things will be bad always, and not all things are only just the way you see it. Be willing to understand all perspectives, when we can do this, we have better chance of accepting the narrative God has lovingly put before us. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!