30 January 2007

Playing God

I caught myself trying to play God the other day. Well, maybe more accurately, I was wishing for God's powers and perogatives without realising it.

One of our tutors in Foundation Training, a woman with many years in ministry as a Catholic sister, often repeated the phrase 'There is only one God, and it's not me.' I always thought this was funny. Of course she didn't think she was God and of course I don't think I'm God.

But then I caught myself feeling vaguely depressed over the last few weeks since Christmas. Nothing I could pin-point. Just a vague feeling that I wasn't 'doing enough' as a minister.

'Why am I feeling this way?' I asked myself. 'I believe in the power and efficacity of listening to people and praying with people; absolutely I do. I don't need the people I listen to or pray with to tell me that I've helped; I honestly don't think I do. Besides which, many of the people I visit do tell me that they've appreciated my prayers or my listening; objectively, I believe I've done what I could. So why the feeling of depression? Why the feeling that I wasn't 'doing enough'?'

Wonderful Husband to the rescue. 'Well, you visited so-and-so in hospital and the person told you they were grateful for your visit, but you weren't able to heal that person, were you? You couldn't make everything better.'

Ding! He hit the nail on the head! I wanted to be able to wave a magic wand and make everything better for everyone.

So, now I am repeating the phrase: 'There is only one God and it's not me.' Thank you to that tutor for these wise words born out of many years of ministry.

We may not see ourselves as worshiping idols, but it's easier than we think!


Michael Westmoreland-White said...

This is good and may speak to my condition. I'm depressed at not being able to stop the Iraq war and not being able to get more Christians to work for peace.

PamBG said...

I'm seeing my Spiritual Director on Friday and I think I'm going to ask for some suggestions about how to put things in God's hands.

This is where "concepts" lose their efficacity for me. I know darn well that I don't have the power to heal the fatally ill, to stop war, injustice and poverty. But I seem to act as if I do sometimes. I don't think this is "idea territory"; it's "prayer territory" and learning a spiritual discipline, I think.

In the UK at least, a higher proportion of ministers get depressed than in the general population and I wonder if this is part of the reason.

Another touchstone for me is the following quote by Rabbi Tarfon (approx 70 to 135 CE): You're not expected to complete the task, but you're not free to neglect it, either.

It's getting that balance of doing the task but remembering that the task's completion is up to God.

Being a pietist is far easier than being a "catholic" and thinking that God also asks us to work for the Kingdom!

Sandalstraps said...

There is a difficult balance to be struck between

a.) realizing that we are not God, and

b.) realizing that we are called to do the work of God.

There are many, many things beyond our ability to control, and to seek to control these things is, as you've noted, to play at being God. However, we should not use our inability to control certain outcomes (be it the healing of the sick or the prevention of war) as an excuse not to act, as a door into the worst sort of religious fatalism.

I don't know how to strike this balance.

PamBG said...

I don't know how to strike this balance.

I'm trying and I do think it's about really being able to put things into God's hands. I know from my own history that I've only just got to a point in my journey where I can do this imperfectly. I'm beginning to understand a bit more about God's timing!

Sally said...

I think what you are seeking is possibly one of the hardest things to find Pam- that sense of being a chanel, but not God... that inability to make things better in our time and in our wisdom- been there a few times- and I'm glad I'm not God!

Prayers for you

Peace and blessings