I sat through a sermon a couple weekends ago. The preacher was not our usual pastor, but someone who spoke at a retreat we were at. His talks had some ups and downs — he certainly shed a lot of light on the Hebrew context that Jesus lived in. Toward the end of the weekend he espoused what I’ve come to call the “yard theory” of life. This is the idea that the world is a big playground that God has placed us in: that there is a whole array of options in front of us, many equally good, a few bad, and that He provides boundaries that He wants us to play within, and correction or repercussions if we push at those boundaries too hard, then sets us free to do whatever we want with our life.
While I like that this theory positions God as Father, watching His kids play, I don’t personally buy into it. I think our fallen world, and the forces at work within it, dictate that God has more in mind for His kids than random play. I think that there’s an over-arching plot-line, with Jesus as the main protagonist, and with each of us asked to play a specific supporting role.
I don’t mean, of course, that His plan won’t unfold if we don’t find and play our part — I know with confidence that He doesn’t need us in order for His will to be fulfilled. What I mean is that He’s inviting us to have a part in His incredible plan, and that at the center of His will is a role and purpose unique to each of us — as His handcrafted creation.
My theory (and I’m sure its not unique to me) is what I’ve come to call the path theory. And in it, the redeemed look a little something like this:
I’ll call this the train-truck, because I don’t know what its name actually is. The important thing about this vehicle is that it has two sets of wheels. One set is made to follow a track, the other set allow the truck to go off on its own course. I propose that we are all born with normal wheels, and that when we are saved, God gives us railroad wheels. At no time (in this life) does He remove our original free-will wheels, but He equips us with a mechanism to stay on track.
None of this is really profound or controversial, but what I’m going to say next seems to be debated a bit: I believe that no matter how many times we go off the track, when we repent and re-engage our God-wheels He restores us to the same track. Maybe our wandering costs us some progress, and definitely it seperates us from God’s best, but when we screw up, God doesn’t say “Great, now I’ve got to put you on a new track and adjust my plan!” He says, “OK, you’re forgiven, now get back to where I had you heading.”
We can, and probably will, get to the end of our life without reaching that perfect destination He had in mind for us… but how close we get to that destination is determined by how much time we spend on the track.
Here’s the really wonderful thing about our God-wheels: using them means we don’t need to worry about what comes next. When we’re wandering on our own, decisions like which direction to take, and what roads to follow, are stressful because we’re wandering randomly, hoping to find roads that go roughly in the right direction. When we’re on the track, what comes next just unfolds on its own — a train doesn’t worry about which off-ramp to take. All we need is obedience, and faith that the track will still be there on the other side of the hill, or around this difficult bend, or when we come out this dark tunnel…
I don’t know if I’m communicating this clearly enough, but what I’m suggesting is that the only thing necessary to have a successful, effective life in Christ — where we fulfill our potential, grow, help others, and impact the world according to His plan — is to focus on surrendering our wheels to His. That’s it! There are no critical decisions to make, there’s no reason to worry or fret about what comes next, there’s nothing to debate or argue, there’s nothing we need to convince ourselves or others of. All we need to do is obey.
That track will lead us to our divine appointments: to the people we’re supposed to witness to, or disciple, to the jobs we’re supposed to take or schools we’re supposed to attend, to the places or countries we’re supposed to live in. And if we’re all living surrendered, then none of us have anything to fear.
Of course sometimes there are choices — and sometimes we put more weight on them than God does. Sometimes there are three or four apparent directions on our track, and we freak out and think we’re never going to be able to choose the right one. But God knows that they all lead to the same place, and He’s simply giving us multiple good things to choose from. The only option that’s wrong is to engage our old wheels and take off in a selfish direction.
For my family, this then is our only plan for the future. To work hard at the tasks in front of us, and to surrender our wheels and rely only on His. Knowing that it is our desire to follow God’s track with complete obedience where ever it leads, we will be dilligent stewards and attentive students, so that nothing hinders us from following His perfect path.