Friday, December 27, 2013

Demonic Blessing





As I walked through a huge hobby supply store, I happened upon a crafted sign for sale. It read:

The will of God will never take you
where you want to go.
The grace of God
will not protect you.

Here I was minding my own business, having a nice day, and this terrifying message appears. Stopped in my tracks, I read again.

The will of God will never take you
where you want to go.
The grace of God
will not protect you.

Wow! You don't expect hard-core atheist propaganda in the middle of a Hoosier hobby shop. I read it a third time to make sure.... Wow!

I had stuff to buy, so I scurried on. In scurrying--and it was a big store, so the scurrying lasted a while--the message seemed less awful. After all, it didn't deny the will of God, and it didn't deny the functioning of the grace of God. The sign only asserted that they function differently from the way I want them to. Suddenly the sign seemed very wise, and it short-circuited my desire to see the world happen selfishly--as in the way I want the world to happen--instead of the way it does happen: pretty much without me in mind.

But let's face it, the sign did not say what we're used to hearing. Inner discord remained with me. When I got home I googled the words and discovered that I had, in my scurrying to and fro through the megamart, misread the sign. The popular proverb, which must have been the one actually lettered on the sign, goes:

The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.
Even with the matter of wording settled I was kind of proud of my first demonic reading of the text. The meaning seemed so spiritually tough. That the will of God would never take you where you want to go makes sense. After all, even the proponents of prayer say your pleas are often not answered in the way you wanted but in the way you needed. The second part, that the grace of God will not protect you, this seems like a new definition of grace, a grace that happens when your ego is unprotected. Who is ready to perceive grace when the ego is protected in the first place? Who can see the great gifts of God when this great big ME is in the way? Maybe grace itself dissolves that protection of ego.
All this musing is excessively theological coming from a Zen student, by the way.
I ran this story by my spiritual advisor, who said I read the sign like a Zen student. But you never know what a Zen teacher is going to say next. He suggested having two signs: one reading each way and hanging next to each other.

Note: This is a revision of a previous post.

Further Note: Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoting Luther about the calling of God in The Cost of Discipleship: "Not the work you choose, not the suffering you devise but the road that is clean contrary to what you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple. If you do that there is acceptable time and there your master is come."


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