This is a recurrent theme here at Christian Monist. This time the provocation was a conversation, which I was having over at IMonk. The position I want to expound on is somewhat divergent from Jeff’s original point, about (the merits) of being a fool for Jesus. So the chain of thoughts went like this. I asked the question, how does one know the difference between being a fool for Jesus and being an idiot (not a positive trait) for Jesus? Jeff’s answer was that the fool for Jesus is being called by God. So I asked, how does one really know if they are “called by God” because there have been many people who thought they were called and/or who convinced others they were called by God . . . but in the end did some horrible things or had terrible outcomes.
The answer to that question was that we Christians we have the Holy Spirit and it was implied that this sets our thinking apart from the non Christian. I will expound (with good intentions but without the answerer’s permission) that would mean that we have a supernatural ability which supersedes the normal human frailties of misjudgment, psychological factors, misinterpretations and etc. It would be like having an antenna inside and the Holy Spirit fine tunes that antenna to the will and voice of God. Maybe another example would be how dogs can hear sounds that humans can’t. Thus Christians have an ear to God’s will which mere mortals don’t.
There is nothing outrageous to those statements. I would say that most Christians consider Jeff’s points deeply woven into the Christian narrative . . . but not all of us.
The last point of the discussion was an illustration of how we Christians can be assured that we know God’s will by following a particular formula. It consists of; A) reading the Bible, B) seeking godly counsel, C ) prayer and D) waiting to see if the door opens. I am very familiar with that formula because this was the same one that we used in the Navigators. I taught a workshop using that formula at conference and years latter I taught a Sunday school class on the same. On top of that, the very last phase of a decade-long process of becoming Navigator staff, was doing a serious of really intense Bible studies. One was almost a whole year (spending many hours a week) on “The Calling of God.’
Now all of this was hunky dory until I started to notice some disturbing trends. It was hard to spot them at first. It is where “good Christians” (meaning very sincere and diligent people, who wanted deeply to follow God’s will) followed the “discovering God’s calling, or will” for their lives with great skill. But then, the calling or action ended in disaster. As I mentioned on IMonk, these situations are quickly swept under the Christian carpet. The situation falls into that area I was speaking of recently about Christian weirdness. Where reality doesn’t mesh with the idealized Christian narrative and then it is erased as if it had never happened.
Now that my introduction has eaten up all my time and your attention span, I realize that I will have to continue this thought on subsequent postings. But before I leave, I want to illustrate this with a real life situation. I have many of my own failures to draw from, but I feel like I’ve shared them all before. So I will pick one that happened to two friends of mine during my Nav days.
A man was involved with our Navigator group, whom I will call Jim. Jim had just finished graduate school and the time was right for him to find a wife. People in the Nav ministries in those days didn’t date. They just decided it was time to get married then would go through this tedious process of determining God’s will for their perfect soul mate.
While Jim was a friend of mine, I will tell the story through the eyes of his eventual wife, Karen. She is the one for who this narrative failed.
Karen was a “godly” woman in another Navigator ministry. She was very, very sincere. She, as we used to say, really loved the Lord. She (like all of us Navigators) also had her eyes on being a career missionary (we all did because we considered a career missionary as the highest position on the spiritual hierarchy).
Jim and Karen met at a special conference (I know it sounds odd now) that was sort of set up as a mass match-making endeavor by the regional Navigators. Singles, who were in the position to consider marriage (meaning having graduated from college and had jobs) were invited to a weekend at Columberland Falls State Park. During that weekend there were a lot of “spiritual” activities, such as hours in prayer and workshops, but also a square dance and formal (so-called romantic) dinner.
Jim and Karen started corresponding. Karen liked Jim. Jim liked her too, so it seemed. Jim was a “godly man” and had a heart or missions. Karen wanted, and I mean sincerely wanted, a Jim Elliot-type of husband, and Jim seemed to fit the bill. He had studied medicine and wanted to be a missionary in the Philippines (having already spent one summer there).
Jim started to talk marriage. Karen met many times with the Navigator staff women to talk this over and to seek Godly counsel. All of them gave her 100% support for marrying Jim. She did a long Bible study over several months, trying to determine God’s will for her and Jim. All the verses she studied seemed to be God talking directly to her . . . Jim was the man. Then she entered a period of prayer and fasting for several weeks (fasting one day a week).
The last “fleece” which Karen was waiting on, was to see what God was doing in Jim’s heart. Then one night he called and to her surprise, he proposed. Karen raced to the two Navigator staff women’s homes. She told them what had happened. They confirmed that this had to be a “God thing,” no question about it. Karen called Jim back and said that she would marry him.
The brief engagement was nothing short (in Karen’s eyes) of a fairy tale. Here was the man she had always wanted and God certainly had brought him to her. She was ecstatic.
Before I flash ahead a few years, I will comment that Jim seemed like a great guy to me too. We were pretty good friends for about a year as we were in the same graduate school program. The only odd thing I ever noticed was a casual comment he made once about which porn shop was the best. I assumed it was some kind of strange joke (because if any of us Navigators ever visited a porn shop, we certainly wouldn’t talk about it unless we were weeping and gnashing of our teeth.) Another time I was with Jim and he ran into some of his non-Christian friends. They commented that Jim really knew how to party. Again, I thought that was odd (we Navs never “partied”) but I didn’t think much about it at the time.
So Jim and Karen had their Snow White and the Prince wedding at huge Evangelical church in Knoxville, Tennessee. All the Navigator staff were there with glowing smiles and to give their blessing of this marriage . . . literally . . . “made in Heaven.”
To make a long story short, the honeymoon period ended and Karen started to sense some oddities about Jim. She lived in denial for a couple of years. Time went on and they still talked of going to the mission field. They had a little girl, then a little boy. A couple more years passed. I knew, through Jim, that they were experiencing some “sexual difficulties” in their marriage and Karen wanted to seek counseling.
I lost touch as I went to the mission field. But, the bombshell hit a few years later when Karen caught Jim sexually molesting their six year old daughter. Karen was devastated. She forced Jim to go to counseling. During which, it came out that Jim had a second persona. He had been habitually molesting children (mostly relatives) since he was about 12. He was addicted to child porn and didn’t seem to be repentant. He hung out with other pedophiles in his other persona.
Karen’s fairy tale marriage seemed to have drifted into a nightmare. She divorced Jim. Then, suddenly, in her pain, she started to get hints from her spiritual leaders (mostly church people now, although she was still loosely involved with the Navs) that, besides Jim being an evil man, that SHE had done things wrong too . . . not listened to God carefully about marrying him. Karen became very disillusioned as her daughter continued to suffer tremendously from the abuse. Had she missed God's obvious will, you know, her internal Holy Spirit antenna for truth? So, was it her fault? Or, was God some time of cruel jokester? None of it made any sense to her . . . but, "for the sake of the Gospel" she had to push her story and feelings under the rug so no one would find out that all Christian fairy tale weddings don't end in bliss.