“I’m a firm believer in God’s plan.” The woman standing by my booth in City Café is repeating this sentence like a mantra. She is talking to my waitress, and relating a medical condition that is bringing her much pain and suffering. Every two or three sentences she pauses and recites, “I’m a firm believer in God’s plan.”
It is easy to challenge this mantra. It is easy to say that this woman’s obsessive repetition of the phrase suggests a desperate wish to believe. But as my waitress affirms the truth of her belief, she relaxes a bit, and just weeps.
Does God have a plan for her life? This depends on how you define “God.” For this woman God is a being larger and more powerful than humans but not so different from them. God has thoughts and feelings; God has a plan, and it is always for the good. Even when it hurts.
For me, God is reality. Does reality have a plan? Not the way this woman thinks. For me God’s plan is simply to be God: to manifest all possibility, and, I believe, to manifest beings with the capability of knowing reality as God. In other words, God is the process of Self-expression and God-realization.
I am a believer no less than the woman in the restaurant. But my belief would not provide the comfort that this woman seeks. So when my waitress turns to me and asks, “What do you think, Rabbi? Does God have a plan for her life?” I replied, “Of course, and I’m glad you (speaking directly to the woman) are aware of this.”
“But what is His plan,” the waitress asks. “What does God want of her?”
“The same thing God want’s of all of us: to love one another, to come to each other’s aid, to allow our suffering to crack our hearts wide open so that the more we suffer the more we love; the more we hurt the less hurt we cause; the more we trust God the less we judge one another. I can’t tell you why God has taken your life in this direction, but I can assure you that God has only one goal in mind: to make you a greater vehicle for love.”
The women stared at me for a moment, then the suffering woman cried, hugged the waitress, mouthed a silent “thank you” to me, and left the café. Did I believe what I said? Does it matter?
What do you believe? What would you have said?