WILL (Our Father, Word by Word)

Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy
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by Dorian Speed

WILL WILL (Our Father, Word by Word)When Jennifer first asked me to write a guest post, I was honored. And I knew just the word to choose: “Will.”

About five minutes later, the ramifications of this choice hit me hard. “WHY COULDN’T I HAVE PICKED ‘AND?’” I asked the heavens, rhetorically.

I mean — this simple word (a four-letter word, at that) encompasses so many of the essential debates within Christianity. Are we predestined for salvation? Does God cause our suffering? Why do some people receive answers to their prayers while others go apparently unheeded? If our original sin was a response to external temptation, where did Satan get the idea to rebel against God? And why do mosquitoes exist?

That kind of thing.

I decided to narrow my scope; to focus on Jennifer’s Will for This Guest Post, rather than trying to do a One-Stop Shop for Answers About God’s Will. Pretty sure Jennifer willed for me to turn this post in on time and for it to not exceed 20 bazillion words, for starters. So I’m going to neglect some of the philosophical questions about God’s Will and play a little something I like to call “The Lord’s Will: Ur Doing It Wrong.”

Well – YOU are probably doing a bang-up job of living your life in accord with God’s Will, but I’ll tell you the various ways in which I myself go astray, so that you can recognize the symptoms in your friends and family.

1. “Thy Will Be Done, and please grant me the humility to accept with grace the awesome, unlimited success, adulation, and happiness you have clearly plotted out for me over a three to five-year period, as outlined in a series of plans and action items I have mentally tabulated.”

This one’s pretty much hardwired in my brain: the constant making of plans and the expectation that all will proceed accordingly, for the greater glory of Me, I mean, God. Of course, right there in Isaiah 55, he tells us, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways,” but I still find myself saying, “Okay, but if I put my plan inside a really nice report cover, you’ll sign off on it, right?”

And then, when it becomes apparent that I really am not going to get everything I’ve planned for, I stomp out of the room, and go with:

2. “Clearly, Lord, you are going to do whatever you want, so I am just not even going to talk to you about what’s going on in my life, Thy Will Be Done.”

This is sort of the flip side to #1. When I’m mad that things aren’t working out according to My Plan, I take the extremely mature approach of giving the Lord the silent treatment, as it were.

I’m being flippant, but really this has been a huge struggle for me. At various points in my life, when Stuff Went Down, so to speak, I found myself at a loss for understanding why things weren’t working out for the best — at least, “the best” as I understood it. I’d think of St. Teresa of Avila, having been thrown from her horse alongside a river, telling God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so many enemies.” I fashioned myself in the same predicament.

And, of course, looking back, I can see my folly in throwing myself into the pursuit of some lofty goal, pushing aside the costs to my own children and my family life, convinced I was going to Make a Difference and Change the World. Which leads me to…

3. “Thy Will Be Done, Lord, by me as a sole proprietor, charged with the salvation of all humanity…”

Surely it all depends on me! Never mind the housekeeping, there are people out there who need me! There’s no time to lose, Lord! Help me stay strong as I solve the world’s problems! Make arrangements for the laundry!

So…I’m thinking the error here is probably evident, but I’d also like to point out that just because we may have good intentions, and be using our talents for the glory of God – it doesn’t mean that all of our efforts are always going to work out the way we envision.

When we’ve put our heart and our talents into a creative effort or an act of service, it’s tempting to feel betrayed if it doesn’t come to fruition as we had hoped. We may question whether our choices were even God’s will in the first place. Was it because we strayed from his path that we experienced failure and frustration? Hindsight may someday reveal to us how the Lord was at work, bringing good out of the situation – maybe even despite our efforts. But it can be tough to continue to trust in God when it seems like the gifts we’ve offered have gone to waste.

4. “Have fun, Lord, off doing Your Will, don’t mind me while you’re changing the fabric of the universe…”

We can feel like the tiniest speck of dust in comparison to the vastness of Creation – like God isn’t even noticing our little lives, isn’t listening to our prayers.

That gives us lots of time to fear for the future and imagine all of the possibilities that may befall us. Jesus asks us in Luke 12, “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?”

And he doesn’t mean that those details are left to chance, but that God is intimately involved, ever-present, in each of the “small things” in our lives. The Lord isn’t off in some remote corner of the universe or sitting with his feet propped on his desk, surveying us from afar – he is “near to all who call upon (him)” (Psalm 145:18.)
So, now that I’ve examined a small, small subset of the many ways in which I come at understanding God’s Will from all the wrong directions, I’d like to point you towards the exemplar that God Himself provided for us: His own mother.

Mary’s fiat – “Let it be done to me according to your word” – that’s what I strive for, in contemplating God’s will. Her “yes” was not just a single, grand gesture – at every moment, her soul magnified the Lord. And it was by trusting completely; submitting her everything to his will, that she proclaimed his greatness.

I approach this with tiny steps — at the Mom’s Day Away conference, Danielle Bean gave a terrific talk on approaching our day-to-day challenges with the response, “Yes, Lord! What now?” Truly, that’s the only way we can live in harmony with God’s will for our lives — not by focusing on the future and trying to pursue grace at the end of all possible rabbit trails, but by submitting ourselves to Him in the present moment. It means we have to surrender all of our plans, our fears, and our frustrations, but it’s the only way we can genuinely pray: Thy Will Be Done.
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What are your thoughts? What else can we learn from “Will”?


Dorian Speed has the joint distinction of being one of the funniest people I know, and having the coolest name in the history of the universe. She’s a writer, catechist, former classroom teacher (current homeschool teacher) and WordPress guru. Check out her WordPress guru-ness here, read her blog here, and follow her on Twitter here (but know that I have learned some near-keyboard-ruining lessons about reading her tweets while drinking something).


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23 Responses to “WILL (Our Father, Word by Word)”
  1. Dawn Farias says:

    I am ridiculously excited to see a post from Dorian on here! She is one of the funniest people I have ever come across. Down-to-earth, honest and very smart, too.

    Thanks, ladies, for a great post.

  2. Mrs. Zwieg says:

    The will of God is a powerful subject. His will can also be translated…His Word, His ways, His law, His commands, His statutes, His thoughts, His plans…etc. “Thy will be done.” Can you imagine if we really take God’s Word seriously, “Thy Word be done,” or, “Thy ways be done.”

    We have chosen to submit my womb to the Will and Word of God. He said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Ok. The doctors said, “no more children.” Since we home educate that is only one income and a possibility of alot more children…scary thought. However, God did not put a disclaimer at the end of that command, or the end of His will for man. He simply gave the command, “Be fruitful and multiply.” No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

    Then there is the will of God concerning submission. God said, “Women submit to your own husbands.” There again, no disclaimer. No room for if’s and’s or but’s. Is it comfortable to submit with a glad and cheerful heart? Not at first, especially if you were raised to believe that women are equal or had a mother that wore the pants in the family. Yeshua, the Son of God did not want to die, “If it be thy will, take this cup from my lips.” But He submitted to the Will of the Father even when it was not in His best interest. He willingly chose to lay down His life so that I could live. How can I do any less for my family?

    It is an interesting journey and of course I am NOT perfect at it, but daily learning to lay my life down in ways I never imagined is more fulfilling that putting my own will above the Creator and King of the Universe and His will! :)

    • Dorian Speed says:

      Mrs. Zweig, thanks for your comment. I’m a pretty private person about how those particular commands play out in my own family, and I know those can both be contentious topics, but they both show the extent to which our prayer that “Thy Will Be Done” pervades our lives. It’s very hard for me to not get caught up in a loop of trying to figure out the details of God’s will for me in the future rather than letting my “fiat” exist in the present. (Not sure if that makes sense, or just sounds flaky.)
      Dorian Speed recently posted..Notes from house-shopping- 2011 version

  3. lickona says:

    He also said, “Call no man father” and “let the dead bury their dead,” and “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” I think human reason and prudence play a big part in the discernment of His will in a particular situation. As More says in A Man For All Seasons: “Listen, Meg, God made the angels to show Him splendor, as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.”

    Good post, Mrs. Speed. I sometimes try to recall Jesus in the garden: begging for the cup to pass him by, and then finishing with “Not my will, but thine.”

  4. job says:

    I always thought of the Christian understanding (such as it is and such as we can) of God’s will as one of those components of the faith that lucidly seperates us from the pagans (God’s will, for the Greeks and Romans, anyway, became merely some form of rape. Leda. Io. Semele. Etc.) Likewise, the eastern mystical understanding of “will” resolves itself in a nihilistic immolation of the will altogether. Only by submitting will to the “sweet yoke” of Christ’s will is our own human nature actually fulfilled. “God became man so that man could become God,” said the Lone Wolf McQuade of the early Church, St. Athanasius. In that idea, perhaps, is found some comfort as we scrabble across the desert wastes we find in our pursuit of God.

    Put another way, perhaps finding that correspondence of God’s will with our own is that marvellous “still point” Eliot talks about in Burnt Norton between the desire to “care and not to care” he speaks about in Ash Wednesday.

    Good post, Mrs. Speed.

    JOB

  5. “Don’t mind me God while you change the fabric of the universe…” YUP. That’s me. :)
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  6. I was thinking a lot about Christ’s prayer in the garden yesterday, since it was in the gospel reading. He repeats the prayer three times. “I don’t really want to drink this cup, Father … can we rethink our options here? … but not my will but thy will be done.” The repetition underscores the intensity of what’s going on. It endears me to Christ, makes me want to follow his example, but it also turns the screw — along with “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — on an underlying fear that the Father’s will for me might lead to going through a lot of crap I don’t really want to go through. But maybe here is a case where Jesus, as a man, is giving us a model of genuine humanity. We don’t have to always like what we’re called to go through, we don’t have to blithely accept it, we can argue with God about it, wrestle with him, but at the end of the day the question is a matter of faith and love. Do we have faith in a God who loves us? Is love at the core of what he wills for us? If we don’t believe that, then “thy will be done” amounts to, “Well, you’re in charge, after all, so I guess all I can really do is go through all this shit. So I’ll just keep my mouth shut and go through it.” But if even Christ had a moment of crisis about God’s will, didn’t seem to fully understand why it had to be so, then I think we should expect to have to struggle with it as well — which is what you’ve done an admirable job of in this post, Dorian. Thanks.

    • job says:

      Jonathan,

      Your mentioning the agony in the garden reminds me of a point made recently at a retreat I attended. The retreat master, citing St. John of the Cross, pointed out that the attempt to submit to the will of God usually entails a dark night of the soul. For many of us, I wonder, is it that we are too chicken-shit to let that dark night advance much beyond the first cold twinkling of stars – or do we even make it much past the first chill wind of dusk? Do we reach the 8-9-10 p.m. hour and, just as the last star goes out, do we decide to call it quits? We like our nights for romance, but if God’s doing the romancing, we tend to get cold feet, slip out of his embrace, and call for a taxi.

      How often do we pray that God will give me the grace to see the night through with him? How many turn their faces to the wall and pray rather for sleep?

      Apparently, so this retreat master said, in response to Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu’s recieving the marching orders for starting the Missionaries of Charity, she asked only that she be allowed to experience the thirst that Christ experienced on the cross. In fact, according to this retreat master, Mother Teresa suffered for some 50-odd years with that “gift” – rendering her faith flavorless, her hope without light, and her charity a desperate clinging to the thin raft of God’s will. In fact, she woke each morning and did the will of the Lord with little or no recompense – only knowning she was doing His will and suffering for it.

      “If there be God, please forgive me,” Mother Teresa writes (the quote is provided by the retreat master). “When I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thougths return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the call of the Sacred Heart?”

      And yet, despite the questions, she did the will of God.

      No chicken shit there, I daresay.

      JOB

  7. This post was spot-on. Not surprising coming from Dorian who, I agree, possesses the powerful combo of wisdom and wit.
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  8. Dorian Speed says:

    Wow – some truly great discussion here, and I am not just saying that because people said nice things about the original post (which I really appreciate.)

    In thinking about this some more – my personal difficulties come from two areas:

    Fear about what God’s Will for me entails – as y’all have alluded to (and how appropriate for Holy Week that we’re talking about Christ’s words on the cross in terms of what they may imply for our own lives.) Love what you have said, Jonathan, about what it really means for us to have faith in a God who loves us. And my fears concern not only the potential suffering on the horizon but also just the semi-dumb fear that I’m not going to get what I want. (Um. Yeah.) That second one has big implications for our creative lives, don’t you think? Like, “what’s the point of pursuing such-and-such idea if it might not pan out, nobody cares, etc.”

    And then there also are the areas of free will that fall under what I understand as “prudential judgment” – should we get a van or a truck, should I splurge for organic strawberries or save money whenever possible to pay off debt, little decisions and big ones where I truly do believe we have several good options. I think if we lose sight of God’s love for us and his gift of free will, we can get so caught up in analyzing every decision as to become scrupulous. (That’s another pitfall for me, at least.)

  9. magda says:

    Jesus , told me, that when I pray, I should say
    “Thy Will be done on earth, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”
    Without sin – through virtue – through good will – within God’s law – without lies – without injustice – with the saints – with the angels – with love – glorifying God
    and He told me to pray
    “deliver us from evil”
    So while I am praying, I pray that God will deliver us from evil and that everything I pray for will be done in accordance with heavenly ways – not earthly ways and that all will glorify Him.
    And to give me what I need each day.
    You just have to love Jesus!

    • magda says:

      Oops – should have prefaced that with
      When Jesus taught the Our Father, he told me, etc.

  10. Kimberlie says:

    This post hits me square where it hurts. Thank you! I can see myself in each example. The place I find myself in now is the “well, I said ‘not my will but Thy will’ but I’ve changed my mind because it’s just too stinkin’ hard and uncomfortable.” Like Job and Jonathan, I have recently been comforted by the Gospel reading of Jesus’ agony in the garden. Even Christ wanted the cup to pass. I worry though whether I will have the fortitude to get through the “dark night.” Great post and great comments!
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  11. job says:

    Dorian,

    You put your finger exactly on what the folks over at Korrektiv are wont to call the moment of faith that pushed Abraham from Ur to Moriah, the same faith which haunted Kierkegaard with fear and trembling.

    It seems we never complain to God about the miracles of life: “Your going to do WHAT to barren Sara?” But we do tend to complain when it comes to what he does with those miracles: “You want me to do WHAT with Isaac?”

    It is ever the way of all flesh. On the surface, it may be that we’re worried about the suffering faith entails, but I wonder whether deep down we’re really worried we won’t have sufficient grace to endure.

    JOB

  12. Ginny Jaques says:

    I can totally relate. To all of the inappropriate approaches to the question. I need to keep reminding myself that when God says “no” to my will it’s because he’s always got something much better in mind.
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  13. Dorian Speed says:

    I am glad to know I am not the only one who has these struggles – I am sure each of them corresponds to one heresy or another, but basically I’m just glad Jennifer didn’t reject my post as blasphemous. ;)
    Dorian Speed recently posted..“Thy Will Be Done” – guest post at Conversion Diary

  14. Heidi says:

    I’m preparing a sermon for Good Friday… focusing on Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane…. and so I’m glad for this post and these comments. I have been encouraged by F.D. Bruner’s work with the Gethsemane text from Matthew 26. Of the shift from Jesus’ first prayer (verse 39) to his second prayer (verse 42), Bruner says this:

    “Jesus’ will moved from a nine, ten, or eleven o’clock position to a twelve o’clock position in his Gethsemane prayers. (Jesus’ will seems never to have been at six o’clock, in opposition to God. But the church learns from his first petition that the human will can ask honest questions ‘at ten o’clock,’ so to speak, and still be within the magnetic field of God’s will … A Jesus effortlessly at twelve dehumanizes Jesus. Gethsemane says humanity. Yet Jesus is still the sacrifice without blemish required by the law, for human questing is not sin” (The Churcbook, p. 660).

  15. Go Dorian! You really are one of the funniest people around!

    I like #1. Of course God has taken notes on all your great plans for the next 3 -5 years and will do them all. What’s that? They aren’t happening? Well, he’s just spacing out all that blessing. Can’t have too much of it at once can we?

    Great post!

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