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We are called to be collaborators with God

October 10, 2017

Laity and call

By Rev. Rod Miller
Special to the UMConnection


The first in a three part commentary. Also read: Laity and clergy in partnership: a vital connection 

How we understand our relationship with God can greatly affect the trajectory of our lives. Where we go, what we do with our gifts and talents, even our attitudes, behaviors and values are all influenced by the nature of our relationship with God.

In broad strokes, we can observe that there are three basic ways of interacting with God.

One way is to take complete personal responsibility and to rely very little on God. We may believe that God has given us the freedom and resources to direct and take action ourselves, and so we do.

A second way is to defer all responsibility for our lives to God. This is a passive approach in which we wait for direction to emerge through God’s influence and guidance.

A third way is collaboration. More than a combination of both of the previous approaches, the person and God have joint ongoing responsibility for direction and action. The participant and God work together in a collaborative manner to discern direction and action. This “step in - step back - reflect” approach brings all within us and God to play at any moment.

We may recall how we have engaged in all three of these approaches at one time or another. When all is going well, we sometimes don’t pause to think how God might fit into our decisions, big or small. From this standpoint, we may feel that we are doing fine on our own and have no direct need for God. During much of his reign, King David led, built, judged and acted based on his own considerable abilities while his relationship with God was in the background. All went along well until he went off course and eventually realized that he needed to turn back to God.

At other times, we may think we have little to offer on our own. We may feel unworthy to desire or imagine more than what is already taking place in our lives. Sometimes we feel small because of mistakes, failures, insecurities or debilitating experiences. We may have trouble seeing the potential within us, so we hold back. In these times, we defer all direction and action to God. The man lying by the pool of Bethesda, waiting for someone to help him into the healing water may have waited his entire life if Jesus had not come along. Jesus asked if he wanted to be well, or simply to remain where he was.

Often, we bounce back and forth between nearly total independence and total dependence. These need not be our only choices! Collaboration can become the usual instead of the exception. Collaboration can take hold whenever we choose to wait on God and trust that God will provide whatever we need in the time and manner we need it. We can come to see that God is continually inviting us off of our own maps and meeting us there. Peter walking on water was about him learning to collaborate with Jesus. Paul in his missionary journeys collaborated with God every step of the way.

What does it mean to go from all or nothing to a real, alive, mutual, trusting relationship with God? Strong marriages are not 50 percent – 50 percent - they are 100 percent – 100 percent.

The same is true in our relationship with God. When we are all in and seek God to be all in with us, we become open and attentive to the quiet strength available to collaborators. And we find that we, too, are able to go where God leads. 

Rod Miller is the interim pastor of Glen Mar UMC in Ellicott City. He also works as a coach for clergy and other church leaders.

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