“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?
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
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What you said was perfect. It gave that woman something she needed.
What I believe is that the ground rules for life include sickness and death. What I ask myself when I worry about things is: How has your life been in the first 61 years compared to 99% of the members of your species? And my answer is "thank you, God" and I hope I can say that even if I get really sick or approach death in the near future.
Well said! That is what it all boils down to... The purpose of life here is to make us all greater vehicles for Love. Thank you for the eloquent reminder!
As always, I LOVE your insights. I firmly believe in the gift of free will AND that God does know what is in out highest good, if we would but be open to perceiving, receiving, believing and living it. I guess this would be the best way I could articulate "God's plan." I would add your sentiments....that ultimately, God wants us to learn to love and to be open to receiving love. I'm not sure we really need much else!
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Dear Rabbi Rami,
my responce to your post has become a little longer than I expected. :)
I have stared to think about words and the power that comes with them. Within your post there are three elements that made me flinch: the word “plan”, using “suffering” within your reasoning, and your final two questions: “Did I believe what I said? Does it matter?”
If you like, you'll find my answers at www.a-honorable-man.com
Dear Rabbi Rami,
I thought your response to these women was beautiful. It is not only true as I believe it to be but it provided them with another level of understanding that can bring each of them a deeper level of equanimity. Isn't that on some level what it means to love.
Dear Rabbi Rami,
I just discovered your blog and found the posts refreshingly honest and therefore insightful. I recently started a blog titled Heavenly Minded & Earthly Good and was looking at what other religious blogs are doing. I enjoy yours very much and will keep it on my radar.
I really love your view of God. It has its problems, as they all do. But there is something essentially sane about it. And you don't have to do cartwheels to get to it. But how to prevent the reality God from being cold? The reality God can suffer from the same kind of arid abstraction as the God of Maimonides. An idea. Not a thing.
I hope one day your write a very long book about your view of God. I think there is still more material to mine here, despite the many books you have written already.
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