I had an interesting evening about a week ago. It was after a Bible study, and several of us were talking to this one guy who was trying to figure out his faith and whether he should be doing more and if he was taking enough time to listen to God or if he was letting God move him - kind of a jumble of stuff.
At one point, I broke in and pointed out that he was exactly where God wants him to be, because God is pulling strings to a degree that we don't even realize, putting us right where He wants us.
This denotes a slight shift in my theology, but it's been coming for a while. In my men's group, I've been piecing together that I think that we have extremely limited free will. Don't get me wrong - I do think we have free will, because otherwise we're just a movie that's playing out and this whole thing is a farce. But so many factors influence who we are and the decisions we make: where we were born and who our family is and our temperament and things we're exposed to. So there's that - we each develop our own paradigm that guides our choices based on the factors both intrinsic and extrinsic to us.
But more than that, it really seems like there are decisions we make that are completely God-directed. Why was I there talking to that guy? Because, a month prior, the people I usually sat with were on vacation and I was sitting alone. And because a woman at church was rude to me. So, when a friend invited me to try his church, after about 30 years at the same church, I suddenly decided to try a new place. And on the 2nd Sunday, they announced small groups, and I figured that would help me meet some new people. And when I watched the videos by the various group leaders, I just happened to have met the kids of one of the couples while helping a friend on a shoot. And that small group was mostly closed, but they had decided to open up a couple of spots. And I emailed before other people, so I got one of those spots. And when I was there, I was so taken with the awesome family that hosts it that I didn't want to leave. And neither did that guy.
A series of coincidences? Or does God know exactly what He's doing and He is going to drag us where He wants us, because He is good and free will is mostly (but not completely) an illusion?
I've always tended to think that God is much more involved than we think He is. When Amy Grant sings the suggestion, 'A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.', I actually kinda believe that. And I think lately that's been solidifying.
Another factor is my increasing belief in the idea that God is not as omnipresent in the past, present and future as many Christians believe these days - the idea being that God knows the future because He's already there. I'm inclined to think, rather, that when God created this universe, He created a space that is outside of Himself. It would have to be, because otherwise we'd just be part of Him. And because of that, God is present in the Now with us, but is not in the future and does not know the future, because the future hasn't happened yet. This doesn't mean that God doesn't know everything - He knows everything that it is possible to know, but doesn't know the future because it doesn't exist yet. BUT - and this is the part that gives me comfort - but He is so big and powerful and smart that He can know what He wants the future to look like, on macro and micro levels, and can pull strings and make things work out so that what He wants to happen will come to pass. Like a master pool player, he can call which balls will go in which pockets, then hit the cue to make the balls zip around the table and land exactly where He wants them.
That's what I think. God knows exactly what He's doing. He knows where He wants you to be. And He's going to take you there. Kicking and screaming, if necessary. But you are not wasting your time. You may have taken a detour, but He will put you back on track. Or that detour may have been exactly what you needed.