just don’t mess with free will

bruce almighty was on the other night and we watched it. it had been a while since i saw the movie and i have to say there’s some good theology in it. that was saturday night.

sunday morning, in sunday school, we talked about self-discipline and self-control and got on the issue of having some sort of regular prayer and/or regular bible study time. my heretical husband suggested that maybe the reason it’s so hard for us to establish a regular prayer/study time is that we don’t like to do it. he likened it to having to talk to his grandparents on the phone as a child vs. as an adolescent. as a child, you want to talk to your grandparents and tell them what you did that was so great. as an adolescent, it was a chore to talk to them; you did it because your parents made you and you were off the phone as soon as humanly possible–if not sooner. for many of us now, prayer feels like a chore. and it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who says very little, if anything at all. last time i checked, that was considered a monologue.

i have my own reasons for not wanting to sit down and pray, though i think that is changing and perhaps some motivation to do so is seeping in. i hope that is the case.

back to the movie: God (in the form of morgan freeman) tells bruce to pray. bruce offers up a sort of laundry list prayer–typical format for most of us when we try to have a regular prayer time. then God tells bruce to try it again. to say a real prayer this time. and bruce does. earnestly, honestly, vulnerably, transparently. “now that’s a prayer.” perhaps that is what God would rather have from us…not so much the daily laundry list and we’re done sort of prayer, but the earnest, vulnerable, honest, transparent prayer–whatever form that takes. and perhaps it doesn’ t have to happen everyday. perhaps it doesn’t have to happen for a prescribed length of time. perhaps we have been given the spiritual capacity to know when we need to actively pray and when we need to simply be present. perhaps we get to decide on our own when and how to pray.

the hard part, i think, for most people is that they “don’t know how.” everyone wants someone to tell them exactly what to do…how to pray, how to study scripture, when to do so, what’s the formula for getting it right? so much for wanting that ability to work it out on our own. i believe that’s part of that free will thing…

bruce was given all of God’s power to do what he deemed necessary. the only real instruction was “just don’t mess with free will.” free will is a funny thing. it, like the humans who possess it, is inherently good but capable of so much bad. free will is what lets us grab life by the horns and find our own way through it. it’s also what allows someone to make the decision that one person’s medical situation is just not that critical, leading to death.

we are free to live with God’s painfully limited intervention. some days i appreciate that freedom. others not so much. like so many of us humans, i want free will…but not really…but…

we are free to choose how we will live and how we will love and what we will do with whatever grain of hour glass sand is ours. we have the option of participating in God or not; to pray or not; to love or not; to honor all of life or not. bidden or not, free will is here to stay. what will we do with it?

maybe all of this sounds somewhat schizophrenic. i hope not. if it does, i hope you are able to sift through and find something worth chewing on.


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