The Mumford of Mumford and Sons  is the son of a British minister, and he has gone on the record, famously, to claim that while he believes in God, he doesn’t claim to be a Christian because he dislikes the baggage. Of course, claiming to be a popular rock & roll artist comes with a lot of baggage as well, but that does not appear to trouble him as much. Given the title and content of the band’s latest hit single “Believe,” it seems fairly clear that parallels can be made between the sort of faith that are required in relationships on different levels. At the core of Christianity is love for God and for other people. At the core of friendships and romantic relationships and business relationships and marriages are similar issues of love, trust, and communication.
It is often cited that perfect love casts out fear, and sometimes this verse is used to club those of fretful dispositions, given to a great deal of fear and anxiety. What is perfect love, though? For a love to be perfect, it must not only be perfectly felt by the sender, but also by the recipient. Love itself is a product of, and a type of, communication, subject to all of the interference to the signal that is common to all communication. In this effort, the sender and the recipient, and the medium and transmission of communication are all of vital and complicated importance. If there is a problem in the sender, the recipient, or in the transmission of the signal from one to another in a mutually reciprocal way, love will not be perfect, and will not be felt or responded to. Needless to say, perfect love is a rarity and requires a great deal of continual effort on an ongoing basis.
At the core of my life’s difficulties are an intricate set of interrelated problems, each of which appears to be insoluble without others being solved. I am sure that I am not alone in this, but it is the reason why at the core of life’s troubles and discontents the same issues appear over and over again. It is not my intent to deal with those here yet again, but rather to focus on one of the characteristic ways that God deals with the conundrum of free will and divine control. In many books of the Bible, but especially and obviously so in places like Ruth and Esther, the apparent absence of God as a direct actor in the story is clearly more than counterbalanced by the unmistakable way in which God works out divine providence so that random chance, to the level of where Ruth’s feet take her when she is going to glean to help out her dispirited mother-in-law, so that God’s will is brought into force without taking anything away from the freedom of choice or personal responsibility of the people involved. God’s control is exercised in such an indirect way that it is difficult to understand until the end just how much was God’s hand subtly influencing events to bring about His will without tipping His hand too early.
It is not only God, but also people, that sometimes use this very indirect means of communication, but its effectiveness depends on having a firm knowledge of where the other person is coming from. A wink, a nod of the head, a smile, a sigh, all of these things can carry great meaning even where words are absent. Much depends on a variety of factors that are hard to know. Is one reading the behavior correctly? Is the behavior directed at us personally, or are we witnessing communication to someone else? Is this communication reflecting an honest attempt at conveying feelings or is there a game involved of some kind? It would be so much easier if one could have consistent, honest, and open communication, but sometimes that is not possible. Instead, we are left trying to guess what’s on the mind of someone else, and when we scarcely know what we think and feel, that is undesirable whether we are a rock star trying to deal with questions of the nature of God or whether we are ordinary people trying to make our way among our own complicated and tangled messes. This can’t go on forever, can it?