Another questionable (to me) phrase that keeps popping up lately is that we have a role to play in life. Even my favorite author, Dallas Willard, mentioned this in his incredible book, Hearing God: “God’s world is an arena in which we have an indispensable role to play.” If Dallas were still around (he died in 2013), I have no doubt he wouldn’t mind me asking him what he meant by that statement, because he followed it up with this: “The issue is not simply what God wants but also what we want and will. When we accept whatever comes, we are not receiving guidance. The fact that something happens does not indicate that it is his will.” He’s speaking in the context of how God communicates to us.
How can we play a role in God’s arena, but still have a voice and a will of our own? Playing a role seems to imply a few things – it was given to us, like getting a part in a play; we have a script; and we are expected to play out that role the way the director wants us to. I can accept that God works out circumstances in our lives for his purposes, for example, when my husband became president of GCI. I believe he was like Esther, moved into a position to help our denomination through some difficult times. Did he have a script? I don’t think so. Did he still have to make decisions, albeit guided by God, and make choices? I believe so.
Just like in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George’s family and town would have been greatly diminished had he not been born. I think George did have an indispensable role, but it was as he learned who God is and began to participate with him in the wonderful life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.