“Does God stick a finger in, if only now and then? Does God budge, nudge, hear, twitch, help? Is heaven pliable? Or is praying eudamonistically (praying for thing and events, for rain and healing) delusional?…Since God works in and through existing conditions, I take this to mean that when the situation is close, when your friend might die or might live, then your prayer’s surrender can add enough power (mechanism unknown) to tilt the balance. Though it won’t still earthquakes or halt troops, it might quiet cancer or quell pneumonia…I don’t know. I don’t know beans about God.”
This passage struck me as particularly pertinent to a conversation I was having with a friend today. We were discussing those that believe in fate and those who label the same events as coincidences, and how they both describe very different ways of seeing and interpreting what happens in the world (on both a public and personal level). While, in the end, we were decidedly fatalists (thinking that some Higher Power has a divine, mysterious, and overarching plan) for the oftentimes messy but nonetheless exquisite Tapestry of Life. Yet we were also in a quandary.
My Dad had Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) about 10 years ago, an ugly tyrant of a disease. He was willing to be a guinea pig of sorts at the teaching hospitals in the Boston area. He had faith that either someone would make a discovery that would help him suffer less, or maybe even cure him. If not, it would eventually help someone else. That’s the kind of person he was, a lover of humanity. He died, not as gruesomely as some, but still a beautiful soul imprisoned by his very own body.
My father was one of the most spiritual people I have ever had the blessing to know in a deep and meaningful way. I say this, not just as his daughter, but as an admirer among many. The faith he has gifted to me can be summed up as this: “S…t happens”, we are ultimately not in charge, and while God is not the Candyman handing out treats and granting wishes, we can be assured that some Good will be created from any and all tragedy.
I guess you could say that some people are just born optimists, they were genetically predisposed to see the glass as half full. One could argue that it is simply the more pragmatic of personality types that logically bend towards a philosophy of coincidence. Both would be missing the larger point: the notion of CHOICE. Against all odds, we humans can choose to find meaning. To look at desparate circumstances, and still find a reason to go on, to smile, to grow, that is part of our legacy of being human. In fact, whether “God sticks a finger in” or not, this paradigm empowers us to do amazing things.
Most Americans say that God helps with them with personal decisions. In the March issue of The Sociology of Religion, a national survey found that 82% depend on God for help and guidance in making life choices. Seventy-one percent believe that when good or bad things happen, these occurrences are simply part of God’s plan for them. In addition, participants with more education and higher income were less likely to report beliefs in divine intervention. But among the well-educated and higher earners, those who were more involved in religious rituals reported similar levels of beliefs about divine intervention as their less-educated and less financially well-off peers.
We may be given good news about an ailing relative’s healing or we may get a phone call that one we have loved has passed away. Either way, I believe God, or Higher Power, or He/She/It, or Whatever is greater than yourself is present, providing strength and comfort. As to any definitives, I don’t know. I don’t know beans about God, either.