One of the most popular and, at the same time, devastating things to say to someone in the midst of trauma is, "It is all part of God's plan." A person might think they are being kind informing someone their pain and suffering was predestined to happen as part of God's master plan, but it's not. It is an evangelism tool that fails to move anyone towards a relationship with Christ. Therefore, it is not evangelistic at all.
It has taken me a few days to post on the Colorado theater shooting because every time I read a news story about the event my heart aches and I feel a little sick. I really want to share my feelings and get those feelings out before the inevitable minister posts on God's unshakable will in the midst of tragedy. I know these ministers mean the best even when their best does more damage than good. Yet, what I am about to write perhaps isn't perfect either...
God's will is unshakable. This might sound contradictory to what I just wrote, but not in context. God's will is unshakable but we always have the option to follow that will. Maybe it's times like these we wish God would turn us all into puppets, taking away our freewill. But without choice we cease to exist. Having the choice and making it is what makes us real. Having the choice to follow God's will makes us more than just puppets- we are instead God's unique creations.
My heart aches because it appears clear to me God's will was ignored on July 20th. Countless lives have and will suffer for the decision of one person. It makes me a little sick because I realize this is how we treat God's precious Gift of freewill. God gives us love and we return it with destruction. God had a will and that will was ignored. For better or worse, there it is.
But that's not the end of the story. I believe the Colorado shooter had a choice and he made a bad one. I have a choice too. I can choose to follow the straight paths. We all can. More than that, we can choose to make exceptional choices. Just as one man destroyed families in the matter of minutes, we can choose to bring fullness and healing in it's place.
I do not know the amount of time I have left on this earth, but God willing, it is going to be exceptional.
There is a mantra I have recently begun to live by. I am not reinventing worship; I am trying to design an easier way to relate to God. I came to this realization while watching a totally secular movie, Objectified. The film did an excellent job getting across the point that everything has a design. Commercials? Designed. The car you drive. Designed. The way a store or restaurant is set up. Designed. Even the cup you drink your coffee from in the morning has a design to it. The only thing that differentiates one subject from another is whether that design is good or bad.
Church is a design! From the moment you notice the building there is an implicit message that organization is trying to send you. This message exists in the parking lot, in brochures, during the sermon, and after the service. Even while the minister is preaching on Jesus Christ the implicit message is still there. This message could be, "You are welcome here." It could be, "We are scared." It could even be, "You have to be at least this poor/rich to join this church." Most churches don't even realize that they carry around an internal message or what that message might be. This all lies in their design. Once again, it might be a good design or it might be a bad design but every church has one.
The biggest realization I had came at the end of the movie. A group was looking at a toothbrush. Yeah! A toothbrush. They were frustrated because a toothbrush is not an economical design. You use one for a limited amount of time and then it ends up in the garbage taking 500+ times longer to decompose than the amount of time you spent using it. The ending scenes showed a group brainstorming ways to redesign a toothbrush when one of them had an eureka moment. I am paraphrasing, but she said, perhaps we are not reinventing the toothbrush but redesigning how we do oral care. Wow! As soon as I heard it I understood it in a new context: church! I am not reinventing worship; I am trying to design an easier way to relate to God. 80% of mainline Protestant churches are in decline. The solution to that is not just reinventing the worship service. The solution is getting to the meat of the issue. How are we relating to God?
Only once in my entire life did someone tell me I couldn't be a minister because I was a female. I remember the experience well. I was a junior in high school, I had just realized my call would lead me to seminary and ultimately to ordination. I was sharing my enlightenment with some friends when one of them told me, "You can't do that."
I was taken aback. Upon asking why I couldn't do that he responded, "Because you are a girl."
For the next two weeks we went back and forth proof-texting one another. (For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, proof-texting is when you pull one or two verse scriptures to prove your point. It is simplistic and wrong.) Eventually, neither of us won and we had to agree to disagree. Today, I don't even remember his name.
I took a couple of things away from that conversation. First, biblical faith is a complex web of understanding. How I have been raised to understand the bible and how the person I was communicating with was raised made our conversation almost impossible to engage in an easy way. If you are reading today to have your mind magically changed about female ministerial leadership, well, you should probably stop reading. A real change in your biblical faith requires discernment and reflection.
Also, I realized being a woman in the bible belt meant I needed to have a strong biblical argument for female ministry. It didn't matter if I was spiritually and prayerfully engaged in this life changing decision. (Which I was and I am) If I wanted to be taken seriously I better be able to talk about it from a biblical standpoint.
God calls women. Before there were kings there were judges, and guess what one of those judges were? That's right, a woman. Deborah. Look her up. When God needed a leader to save the Israelites from destruction guess who was called? That's right, a woman. Esther, look her up. When Jesus needed a message shared with the Samaritans guess who got to share it? That's right, a woman. The woman at the well, look her up. When Jesus wanted to share the Easter story guess who was given the right to tell it first? That's right, a woman. Mary, look her up. We can proof-text anyone out of accepting a call. In the end actions speak louder than words.