Category Archives: Reading

The Will of God, part 4

Yesterday I took my violin to church… or rather, I made a trip back into the house after getting into my car the first time, and I grabbed my violin. I was about to take off, when I stopped again and ran back in to pick up my rosin.  The weather was unseasonably moderate for August, so I had no fears about leaving the instrument in a hot car.  I didn’t know why I  wanted it with me – I just did.

After service was over, classes were starting. I ran into my good friend in the lobby, and she and I talked about the fact that our class leader was on vacation and there was an open plan for what we would do that morning. I mentioned the violin, and she said to bring it in and play it.

I did. It’s a new violin for me, and a very old one at that.  Very inexpensive. Very beautiful sounding to me. I played a Celtic piece, and some hymns. By the time class was over, I had made new connections in ways I had not previously enjoyed.  I met and talked with a friendly couple and their sons and made a new friend that I can attend music events with, all by sublimating a need to connect with others through conversation into my music.  My music became the avenue through which communication was opened.

Why did I listen to that internal voice? I am a teacher. I know how to teach, and how to play. But this violin — one that my son has worked on — it has an expansive sound.  I have an expansive sound. I am listening to the eternal voice of love in the present moment. My own voice – often muted in the past, shy, afraid — is changing. I am changing, and art imitates life.

This is my understanding of what sublimation is:  When one is lacking in one area, rather than bemoaning that fact, which is a product of the circumstantial will of God, we may deal with it “…by directing the activities of the personality to some altruistic task which is (a) of use to the community, (b) satisfying to the self, and (c) in harmony with that self’s ideals.”  In The Will of God, Weatherhead explains that under these three conditions, sublimation is an action that channels one need, due to lack in one area of life, into the energy of an outlet that can be used by God to bring about the fulfillment of his ultimate will. In other words, it takes and transmutes the results of the circumstantial will of God into something that is higher, better, and that might not have flowered into a beautiful result if the original circumstances had been more ideal.

So last night, I thought about how much I enjoy playing violin in nursing homes.  There are still some areas of lack and loss in my life that I feel deeply; there are circumstances for which I can do nothing.  But what I do know is that the last time I played at a nursing home, an elderly man told me he loved me. He didn’t know me, had never met me, and had no idea about the good or bad traits that he might otherwise have sensed about me, through a filtered perspective.  Yet, as I’ve experienced many times before, there is an open, beautiful quality in these homes that is not possible anywhere else. And the blesser and the blessed often get confused as to who it is that is doing the what. Sublimation for me, is playing in the homes and feeling a sense of free and open love. Maybe sublimation is even not knowing why, where, or who I will be playing for. It is just being ready.

(Thanks, Dad, for keeping this book in your library. I’ll bet you never knew it was for me.)

The Will of God, part 3

When life hands you a lemon, realize that this is part of the circumstantial will of God.

Making lemonade entails using creativity. Instead of wasting time being angry or asking God why (all of which are perfectly understandable states for humans to fall into) we can choose to use our energy, transmuting evil into good.

In The Will of God, Leslie D. Weatherhead relates that there are two parts to the circumstantial will of God, which will affect us due to our free will and the oneness that we share as brothers and sisters on the planet.  A natural sense of pain, through the physical body or emotional states, shows up most commonly, taking the forefront of our attention.  Our first inclination to look at God and ask why in these moments is as seemingly appropriate as a child’s cries to a parent, “If you are good, then why am I in pain?” This in an instinctual response to life when dealing with the Will in less than ideal situations.

It is the spiritual sense (the second part of God’s circumstantial will) that allows us to be creative in response.  “Christ did not just submit to this dread event of the Crucifixion with what we miscall ‘resignation,'” states Weatherhead, “He took hold of the situation.  Given those circumstances which evil had produced, it was also God’s will that Jesus should not just die like a trapped animal, but that he should so react to evil, positively and creatively, as to wrest good out of evil circumstances… In other words, by doing the circumstantial will of God we open up the way to God’s ultimate triumph with no loss of anything of value to ourselves.”

There is no loss of anything of value. This is a powerful statement!  God’s will is to help each person to be “…a complete and integrated personality in union with himself.”  In order to deal with lack or with pain in the physical sense, a beautiful interdependency with others, in creativity, will be the modality through which God’s intentional will may occur.  So the ultimate union with others/union with God comes about after a time of struggle with others/free will/self.  It is through our humanity that we find suffering, but it is also through our humanity that we devise answers.  We need both independence and community to make our way through.  So the creative aspect is achieved through sublimation, which I will cover more in part four.

The Will of God, part 2

“it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”  Matthew 18:14

Is our will stronger than the will of God?  A friend and I were discussing this.  If our will could not, at times, feel as if though superseded God’s will, then would there be any such thing as free will?

God does not intend pain for us.  “The intentional will of God means the way in which God pours himself out in goodness, such as the true father longs to do for his son.”  In The Will of God, Weatherhead expounds on the intentional will of God, verses the circumstantial will.  “We simply must break with the idea that everything that happens is the will of God in the sense of being his intention.  It is within the will of God, if you must use the phrase, in circumstances we have hinted at already.  But we must come to terms with the idea that the intentional will of God can be defeated by the will of man for the time being. If this were not true, then man would have no real freedom at all.  All evil that is temporarily successful temporarily defeats God.”

Can God be, even temporarily, defeated?  I think the difficulty lies in semantics, in the struggle to define the experience, because for many, it is a given that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent — how do your thwart that kind of a presence?  Because we are in an imperfect realm, our lives are somewhat like a film strip, with frames pieced together into a seeming continuity that can best be described as our mind’s and our brain’s way of perceiving what is. From that perspective, the imperfect describes the imperfect pretty perfectly.

“Come with me to some slum home in the dark back streets of a huge city, where men’s lives and services are means to other men’s ends, where there is disease of body and distortion of mind, where evil festers and grows in sordid and terrible conditions, where men have not even the spirit to rebel, but accept their lot with a listless apathy that is more terrible than a revolution. And if you say concerning those stunted lives, ‘This is the will of God,’ I say to you that there is a greater blasphemy than the denial of the Holy Trinity.”

Weatherhead states a few pages later, “Evil is never creative of good, though the circumstances of evil have often been an occasion for the expression of good… If we say that the suffering caused by evil is essential because of the qualities evoked, then logically we must assume that God needs evil to produce good: that he could not produce such a thing as courage unless an evil like war demanded it…Will all the qualities which evil reveals atrophy into nothing because there is no evil to evoke them? I repeat that evil does not make good qualities.  It reveals them and gives them exercise, but there is always the possibility – and surely this is God’s intention – that those same qualities may be revealed and exercised and manifested as a response to goodness.”

What a beautiful book of my father’s… What clear writing and thoughtful communication! There’s no better time than the present to feel ourselves enveloped safely in the loving Will of God.

The Will of God

In The Will of God, Leslie D. Weatherhead, clarifies three distinctions of God’s will. One is the intentional will of God; the next is the circumstantial will, and the last is the ultimate will of God.  This represents a sort of trinity aspect of God’s will that allows one to potentially better understand the love of God and His response (or seeming lack of one) via our life experiences.

“So we concentrate on the first and think of the will of God in the sense of his ideal intention. To accomplish that, one of the first things we must do is to dissociate from the phrase ‘the will of God’ all that is evil and unpleasant and unhappy.”  This makes a great deal of heart sense. Although life is difficult at times, and there is a great deal to learn in going through difficulty, God’s first intention is that we live abundant, full lives of joy.

The Buddhist way of acknowledging suffering, so as to give it room to leave, and the desire to overcome suffering, resonates with this idea. This is not meant to compare the merit of ideologies, but to address the commonalities here. For Buddhists, it is the dharma, or as was explained to me, the phenomena in our lives and how we relate to it in such a way as to help relieve our own suffering.  This, at least in part, is a  philosophy which implies that the will of God  (the way) is not in sync with the idea of our hells being equivalent to God’s heaven.

As I and friends of mine come to terms with a tragic situation, a death of a man loved by our church community, I am reading this book. I felt the urge early this morning to find it and it now seems timely to me… The Will of God is a book that came from my father’s personal library.  I awoke thinking about “My Father’s Folder,” and then the thought about this book came to mind, and I at once got up and began to look for it, like a woman looking for a lost coin.

I think there is much more to be gleaned from it, and I will be writing more soon about my thoughts on the understanding conveyed within it. At times like these, a new study of an old idea, such as the facets of God’s will and our best attempts to comprehend them, can be helpful in healing a hurting people in need.