Thursday, May 10, 2007

If It Be Your Will

I was working on my yard yesterday... raking up the detritus of winter and taking a stab at making it all look decent. I had my iPod on a long playlist I created recently-- so long and so recent that I really had no idea what to expect, song-to-song. And this song came on and grabbed me by the heart and squeezed.

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

This is such classic Leonard Cohen: it is all about our profound brokenness as reflected in the light of our possible glory-- he sings this over and over, whether his subject is sex or politics or religion or (as is sometimes the case) all three.

There was a piece of me that, of course, heard this song in the light of my call to ministry. For the briefest moment I considered the possibility that it might not be God's will that I sing my song, or use my voice. Pretty quickly I thought, nah. That's bullshit. I truly don't believe God calls us only to mess with us and put roadblocks in our way. Insofar as there are roadblocks, they all seem to have unmistakably human fingerprints all over them.

This goes back to what is possibly the oldest theological conversation-- the one people had when they were looking up at the moon and sun and worshiping them as gods. Why do things happen the way they do? Good things and bad things. Why? Is it because some god is either really angry at us or really pleased with us? Someone asked me recently whether it was a bad thing that she had a general disposition that God will somehow care for her and lead her on the right path in her life. She asked this because this is a hard thing to believe and claim in the face of, oh, I don't know-- Darfur. Iraq and Afghanistan. Matthew Shepard. Virginia Tech. Poverty. Illness. Why should she have confidence that God is looking out for her when the evidence would seem to be that God lets all sorts of bad things happen to good people (and bad and indifferent)?

I think Elizabeth Edwards gives a pretty good answer to this.

Elizabeth Edwards gave an interview recently in which she explained her position on this question, the question of theodicy. Edwards said that after her young son died she came to the conclusion that God does not promise us protection. Rather, God promises us presence and faithfulness, accompaniment through the horror.

I believe it's God's will that I serve through ministry. But I also believe that, as Barbara Brown Taylor put it, God mostly wants my love, and given that, I should do what pleases me. It would please me to continue to serve as a pastor.

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

3 comments:

klady said...

Thank you for this blog. Your words move me deeply, touching and healing wounds, some of late and some long forgotten. No doubt I would have found your blog sooner or later, but thanks to IT and Jake for sending me here tonight.

Blessings for your continued ministry and doing what pleases you and God both.

We Do It Too said...

um, yeah. couldn't have said it better. and what a good response to the "why shitty things happen to normal, fallen people." very helpful to me at this point.

Catherine + said...

Why is it, dearest Cecelia, that your writing touches the deep places of my soul and warms my spirit? You are so very gifted in so many blessed ways...your DH is a very lucky, and blessed woman herself. I have been a way awhile but am so glad I am back to read your work.

I'll try not to stay away so long in the future.

Blessings to you and DH.

Catherine+