Playing God?

My husband, joined by another minister, hosts a half-hour Christian radio program called “God Talk with the Preacher.” The pastors discuss faith and other matters that concern the local Christian community.

After overhearing us discussing a recent program, one of our grandbeans asked, “Nana, about that radio show. Who plays the Preacher and who plays God?”

I passed his question on to the Preacher as a possible broadcast topic, then got thinking about that question myself — realizing with chagrin that I’ve auditioned for the God-role myself — all too often. That usually doesn’t end well, although at least once it came close, I think.

Our son took up smoking in his teens, a habit that drove me to distraction. No one smoked in our house, then or now. One day I discovered a packet of loose tobacco in his coat pocket. He’d left it on the kitchen counter while he went to his room, and the temptation to go hunting simply overwhelmed me. Honest.

What’s a good mother to do? Nagging hadn’t worked. Knowing he could return at any moment, my hands went to work before my brain went in gear. Ripping open the spice drawer (which happened to sit immediately below the coat) I yanked out a jar of cayenne pepper. Then I dumped every leaf of tobacco into a bowl and mixed it with an extremely generous portion of the hot spice.

When he came back into the kitchen, his coat lay precisely where he’d left it, complete with tobacco pouch in the same pocket.

Beloved son never said a thing. Months later, when I finally had the courage to ask if he was still smoking, he said something like, “Nah. It didn’t agree with me.”

To my knowledge, he’s still a non-smoker.

I don’t know how I got away with that, honestly. Perhaps God makes special allowances for desperate mothers? These days, every time I try to prick someone’s conscience, God reminds me that I’m not their judge and I’m not their Savior. Each time I get into a pattern of unhealthy lifestyle choices and pay for it through illness or overweight, he shows me that Father really does know best. Whenever I ignore that quiet inner voice urging me to hold my tongue or my pen (or my red-hot-chili-peppers) and have to suffer the consequences (apologies at best; shame and lost relationships at worst) I know I’ve lost my bid for the God-role. Again.

Oh fiddle, I think, looking back, red-faced. How many times must I learn and re-learn that most basic faith lesson? There is only one God. And I’m not him.

Just in case anyone else needs this reminder: Inner peace runs deepest when we leave the God-role to the only one it fits and get on with the business of being his trusting children.

Take it from someone who knows.