Which Will? (part one)
No book has been so confounding to me and, at the same time, so powerfully influential as Martin Buber’s I and Thou. Large chunks of the book, clumsily translated from Buber’s original German, for me are indecipherable. Then, like a flash of lightning, a paragraph or a page will suddenly illuminate the sorry condition of my soul – and I’m awash in deep repentance.
One of those lightning bolts is this:
“Free is the man who wills without caprice. He believes in the actual, which is to say: he believes in the real. He believes in destiny and also that it needs him. It does not lead him, it waits for him. He must proceed toward it without knowing where it waits for him. He must go forth with his whole being… He must sacrifice his little will, which is unfree and ruled by things and drives, to his great will that moves away from being determined to find destiny. The free man has only one thing: always only his resolve to proceed toward his destiny.”
Each of us has, according to Buber, two wills. A little will and a great will. The little will is ruled by our hungers and desires and drives. It is “unfree”, ruled by emotion and our preference for comfort and ease.
It is governed by the flesh.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh … walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. [Gal 5: 13f]
Maturity is realized when we subordinate our little will to our great will. Our great will is the motivation to live influential, God-honoring lives in humble submission to Christ and reliance on His Spirit no matter how difficult.
No longer capricious—no longer bounding from one self-centered desire to another (“I need to be comforted. What will people think of me? I want to be included. I must get my way! I’m stressed and deserve to relax.)— I’m free to pursue the destiny for which Christ gave me life.
Coaching distinctions #42.doc
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