One of the more odd and annoying mental gymnastics of my evangelical days gone by was the daily-weekly-monthly and yearly question of what is God’s will for my life? From the largest decisions I had to make such as changing jobs, moving to a new town or should I ask her to marry me, to the least impactful decisions such as should I go see that movie or not, what do I do with a few extra bucks or do I sleep in tomorrow or get up early; the always elusive “God’s will” was like an albatross around my neck and brain.
I was taught that God had a perfect plan for my life and if I made the right choices, then God could bless me and use me. It was a “perfect plan” mind you, not just any ole plan. But if I made the wrong choice, watch out.
But that always left the barn door open to the possibility that I might not get it right. What if I make the wrong decision? What if I choose something that isn’t part of God’s perfect plan? What if the decision I make turns my life so far off course that it’ll never get back on the track to pleasing God?
The anxiety and angst of trying to figure out what God wanted was debilitating and the more I thought and “prayed” about it the more difficult it was to make the decision. Indecision seemed in many cases to be the better course. I figured I can’t screw God’s perfect will up too bad if I just put off the decision. Of course, a non-decision was also a decision, so I worried about that too. See the dilemma?
A Game of Hide and Seek
Sometimes it just felt like God was playing a hide-and-seek game with me. “Let me hide Dan’s perfect will for his life over here and see if he can find it.” I mean, I didn’t even have the advantage of being told whether I was “hot” or “cold” as I was looking for this perfect will. And then it seemed like if I thought I actually figured it out and began to make a decision, then doubt crept into my mind about that choice, and it was almost as if God had moved it on me. Ok, keep on looking, it might be over there.
I got to the point where I questioned God about this (something I was told I shouldn’t do). But I got to thinking that why does God want to play a game of hide-and-seek with me? Why should finding God’s will, his “perfect will” be such a secret and such a game? Why hide it? What benefit can there be for keeping such great information a secret from me, or anyone else for that matter? What kind of God plays these games? It was a never-ending shell game.
The Shell Game of “God’s Will”
This never-ending shell game of “see if you can find God’s perfect will under one of these shells was simply an extension of the broader Christian teaching that denigrates a human being’s intelligence, volition, and confidence in themselves propagated by the ultimate street hustler, a human-made god.
You are not to trust yourself under any circumstances. The Christian teaching is, “you are a depraved sinner worthy only of burning in hell.” So, of course you can’t trust your own intuition, critical thinking or common sense because you are a sinful-depraved human being.
I was taught that the human heart is deceitful and wicked, and not to be trusted. So doubting yourself was a natural extension of that idea. There is nothing good within a person and only the sacrifice of God, of his own son will save you from the ultimate wrath of God.
But even then, once you are saved, for some unknown reason, God still doesn’t just level with you and tell you which job to take, what person to marry or where to move. No, for some reason it is still a big shell-game or hide-and-seek. You would think that by being one of the “chosen” you would have a direct line on privy information about God’s will. But “NO!” It is still hidden.
Game or Abuse?
I began to realize that this really wasn’t a game so much as it was abuse. This mental-emotional dependency on something external to yourself is actually a co-dependency that cripples a person and makes them timid and weak. You are taught that you don’t have the ability to make decisions. In that sense, Christianity by design is structured to create weak, co-dependent people. You are nothing without God, you are only worthy of torture and burning in hell without something beyond yourself, namely Jesus Christ.
And even when you do accept Jesus as your “personal savior” you are still not worthy of being trusted with your own decision-making. No, you have to pray, fast, seek counsel from a pastor, priest or better yet, a prophet, and agonize over finding God’s perfect will so that God can bless your life fully. Rely on nothing within yourself because your heart is evil.
But this notion has another extension. If my decisions result in suffering or negative consequences, then I must have displeased, disobeyed or offended God. Going bankrupt or getting divorced certainly must mean I am “outside of God’s will.”
I can still hear that refrain in my brain over and over. YOU! are outside of God’s will. I’ve been told that on several occasions. But, how did the sinfully depraved person saying that know? Are they no better off than me even if they are a preacher of a megachurch or a TV evangelist. It was part of the hustle.
It was a manipulation and exploitation of the highest order and, tada! Welcome to the prosperity gospel. Here is a way out of your mess; tithe most of your income to a prosperity preacher or stay in an abusive marriage in order to please God. That’ll do it.
And, make sure you spend time at the altar during prayer services to show your humility, depravity, incompetence, stupidity and penance (and of course, don’t forget to write that check to God). You will never be good enough you depraved rodent. With or without Christ you are not worthy. Some TV preachers have made millions off this script. They live in mansions, opulence, fly private jets and buy expensive wardrobes and jewelry off your co-dependence. Your sense of worthlessness underwrites their extravagant lifestyles.
So, yes, I had to come to an understanding that this was a game and hustle by those that wanted to exploit and manipulate me for their own aggrandizement and personal enrichment. And for a time I gave into it. I was supposed to accept my own feeble, depraved and co-dependent condition so that the elite within the evangelical hierarchy can live useless lives of self-importance. But more disastrously I was left with a feeling of worthlessness and uselessness that took years of repair and reconstruction to rebuild.
But I did it…I broke out of the exploitation.
One of the most refreshing and rejuvenating feelings about coming out of the evangelical stranglehold and bondage was the sense and belief that I am a truly competent, capable, reasonable, responsible and self-sufficient individual. I can find strength, courage, direction and power within my own mind and heart. I am not deficient nor am I a depraved person. And, I do not need someone to rescue me. I have no need or desire to be co-dependent on anything or anyone.
I took the words of Jesus at face value. The kingdom of God is within you. The divine is already resident within my soul. The Jesus narrative already lives and breathes within you. And….you are fully sufficient and complete as you are. You have no need of anything beyond your own being. You are not depraved, sinful or worthy of eternal damnation by a petty God that seems to only want dependent little children running around worshipping his ego. These are machinations of petty little preachers who want to make you co-dependent on them. And they use a petty little God of their own making to achieve that goal.
God’s Will Is Not Hidden
Here is the final conclusion I reached as I left the evangelical straight jacket. I already know God’s will. God’s will is nothing more than my own intelligence, reasoning, critical thinking and intuition that I have developed over years of experience.
I don’t need a “sacred book” or an authoritarian preacher asking for my money or a co-dependent relationship with an external, egotistical God. I only need to touch the life of Christ within my own heart and find therein the kingdom of God.
Listen to that voice, trust my own goodness and virtue, and move forward with confidence that God’s will is my will. I already know what it is. I don’t have to pray, cajole, plead, beg, make sacrifices, write big checks, or cry out for God to reveal his will to me. I know it already. I have the kingdom of God within me, as Jesus taught.
It isn’t a game of hide-and-seek or a shell game by a street hustler. The evangelical pastors and TV preachers are the only street hustlers to beware of. You are complete and powerful on your own. You need nothing else. You are already a combination of the human and the divine. Just listen to your own heart, listen to the voice you already have heard…and trust it.
Don’t cede any power to anything or anyone outside of your own soul. Any power you yield is power that will abuse you and take advantage of you. Do not give it up. Make your soul autonomous. You were not born sinful, but you were born wonderful, powerful and majestic. You need nothing outside of your own mindfulness, spirituality, and humanity. That is where you find the perfect will of God.