Spiritual Guidance for Whose Benefit? Part 2

Spiritual Guidance for Whose Benefit? Part 2 July 25, 2011

Part 21 of series:
How Does God Guide Us?

In my last post, I suggested that God’s guidance is not only for our personal benefit, though we are surely helped when God guides us. But divine guidance is often for the sake of others, and ultimately for the sake of God and His purposes.

This truth about God reminds me of a wonderful scene from The Sound of Music. Maria had set her heart upon becoming a nun and was in the midst of her candidacy to join a religious order. But her ability to accept the disciplines of convent life was in question. So, the leader of the abbey, who exercised complete authority over Maria’s life, sent her away to serve as the governess for the incorrigible Von Trapp children. To Maria’s surprise and horror, she unintentionally fell in love with their father, Captain Von Trapp. Fleeing back to the safety of the abbey, Maria tried to bury her love for the captain, a love which would surely compromise her commitment to becoming a nun.

Julie Andrews as Maria van Trapp in The Sound of Music

When the abbess finally gets Maria to talk about what happened at the Von Trapp home, the confused girl confesses her love for Captain Von Trapp. She begs the Reverend Mother for the opportunity to make her religious vows immediately, thereby removing forever the possibility of marrying the captain. But the abbess does a most surprising thing. Rather than accepting Maria into the holy order and protecting her from a marriage that would preclude her becoming a nun, the Reverend Mother orders Maria to return to the Von Trapp home. Disregarding Maria’s urgent pleas for admission to holy orders, she insists that Maria must test her love for the captain and thereby discover God’s will for her life.

Unhappily, Maria submits to the Reverend Mother’s command because she has no other choice. As a candidate for the abbey, Maria has submitted her life to the authority of the abbess. But we can see that this wise woman exercises her authority, not only for the good for her order, but for Maria’s good as well. Her guidance, however authoritative, is supremely wise and gracious, even though Maria cannot see it at the time.

So it with God’s guidance and our response. We obey God’s directions because we should. It’s the only right thing to do. But even when we can’t see how God’s ways are the best for us, they always are. Like the Reverend Mother, the Lord deserves our complete obedience. And, like the Reverend Mother, our gracious Heavenly Father guides us into the life of greatest fulfillment. When God directs us for his own purposes, we discover that his purposes include our blessing and joy.

This illustration from The Sound of Music helps us to see how obeying God can lead, not only to God’s good, but to our good as well. What it doesn’t capture is the miraculous and peculiar way God actually worked in the real life of the real Maria von Trapp. I’ll explain what I mean in my next post.

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  • David G

    Mark you speak of God’s guidance as always going in one direction: from an all-knowing, all-wise, God to us humans. But what are we to make of these kinds of exchanges in:
    ·        Gen 18: 18-25 with Abraham and God
    ·        Job  (Job 10)
    ·        God in  with Moses and God( Exodus 33 and Exodus 34 (Ezekiel 20: 8-9/ Numbers 14 and 16))
    ·        Numbers 25: 10 with the seven sisters and God.
    What are we to make of these passages? In these four examples we find people openly telling God that they do not agree with what He plans to do and that quite frankly he, God, needs to reconsider His ideas. Who is guiding whom?

  • Paula_pow

    As a HUGE fan of The Sound of Music and an even bigger fan of the real-life Maria von Trapp, I love reading your article and look forward to your next post!

  • Anonymous

    Amazingly, God allows us to tell him what we think, and he even takes this into consideration. That’s what we do when we pray. Of course, we should also seek to pay attention to God’s guidance when we pray.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Yes, that’s an amazing film.