To imagine God as some divine architect standing at the beginning of time with a blueprint in his hand, according to which all things will unfold, is to enter the boredom of a pre-determined universe and the slavery of a manipulated existence. But to recognize God as the possibility beyond the past and present, the dynamic process that invites us to co-create true novelty and to transcend our past in an undetermined future, is to enter the joy of a living relationship.
The blueprint metaphor has been used by myself and is still used by some of my favorite authors to illustrate that God is the origin of our design. Now the intentions are good: in the midst of many voices and uncertainties about who and what I am, the idea that God knows my true design is very comforting. However, the metaphor often gets pushed too far and instead of bringing clarity it obscures.
Let me explain. When applied to the relationship between God and man, the blueprint metaphor implies that God has designed and planned what humanity is… and who you are. You have no real say in this plan or in its execution, for God is your absolute origin, designer and creator and you are the passive recipient of His decision. In this context, your only contribution is to discover and to be the true self God created.
If we compare this metaphor with another, the contrast will expose its weakness. A ‘story/narrative’ metaphor is ideal for this purpose.
Plans and blueprints are predetermined; stories unfold spontaneously.
The best plans have few surprises; the best stories have many surprises.
Plans intentionally limit and close the future, but the future is open to stories.
Is God the one who predesigns who you are and determines your life, or is he the whisper of desire, inviting you to co-author the most exciting story ever told?
Can you see the contrast? To move from the conception of a God that has everything under control according to His grand design … to a God who gives up control and becomes vulnerable for the sake of an un-manipulated relationship is a very big move indeed and sure to raise some questions.
Maybe Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind for some: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (RSV)
Again, it is how far we push the metaphor that matters. Thinking of my relationship with my children I can certainly see that I too wish for their welfare and I will plan to support their futures as far as is possible. But such good intentions will soon become overbearing manipulation if I do not allow them to make their own plans and insist that they conform to my plan.
Unfortunately this is how God-has-a-plan-for-your-life has often been interpreted – as a plan in which we have no say; as a plan to which we simply have to conform.
To be the image and likeness of God is not to conform to some pre-defined blueprint of what it means to be human, but rather, it is in our humanity that the boundless generosity, the new possibility and the joyous desire of the undefinable unfolds … and continues to unfold as God re-imagines God-self.
“ … beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…” 1 John 3:2 NKJV
God demonstrates his vulnerability by giving us the freedom to participate in this creative process, or refuse it. This participation is not a static submission, but a genuine contribution to this unfolding creativity. Whatever plan or blueprint there might be – it is unfinished and we are invited to co-design, co-author and co-create.
As for me, it has been such a joy to let go of the omnipotent, all-dominant god and explore the all-vulnerable God of possibility.