What if God gave us notice?

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | November 15, 2018

“God willing and the creek don’t rise.”

I hadn’t seen my friend for several months and I was delighted when she called and invited me to come to dinner. Now, having spent hours catching up, it was time to leave. “I should be home by midnight,” I said, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” A common enough expression, but where does it come from? Why do we say, “God willing?” Well, maybe it’s because we know that, unless God is willing, no amount of planning on our part will guarantee that what we anticipate will actually happen, and we’re looking for reassurance.

Jesus’ disciples were looking for reassurance, too. Jesus had been telling them to prepare themselves for the difficult days to come, but they didn’t understand. They thought they could wait until the skies darkened and the earth shook and then begin to get ready. “God willing and the creek don’t rise.”

Unfortunately, we’re not all that different. I left my friend last night with a 2-1/2 hour drive ahead of me. What if God had not been willing? What if I had not made it home by midnight or, perhaps, at all? Did the realization that my life is truly in God’s hands make any difference in how I conducted myself on the road? Was I any more charitable toward other drivers? More patient? What if I had known that, for me at least, there would be no tomorrow? Would it have made any difference?

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree … when you see these things happening, know that he is near.” What a relief! We don’t have to start worrying until the ground starts shaking, right? But Jesus says that no one knows when the hour will arrive.

Couldn’t God at least give us a little notice so that we can apologize to those folks we were gossiping about over dinner? I promise to be nicer to the woman in the checkout line. I promise to rethink those extra tax deductions. I promise I’ll do it tomorrow, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.”

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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