Sovereignty // Adam Walker Cleaveland

This post is a part of the Sovereignty of God Blog Series going on throughout the months of July and August. You can read about the series and see a schedule of the posts here. You can subscribe to all the posts here.

Adam Walker CleavelandToday’s post is from Adam Walker Cleaveland. Adam is a full-time Minister for Youth & Young Adults at Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore, CA, and part-time Founder and Lead Designer for Cleave Design. Adam lives with his wife Sarah and dog Sadie, in the Bay Area. When Adam’s not online, he’s…who are we kidding…he’s always online. He blogs at Pomomusings and you can find him on Facebook and Twitter (@adamwc).

There have been times in my life when I was very comfortable with the idea of God being sovereign. It was reassuring – comforting even. And there are still times in my life today when I believe it’s helpful to think of God as one who “has it all together” – who is in control of God’s creation. I also think from a pastoral care perspective, there are times in people’s lives when they need to hear that amidst all of the turmoil, shifting sands and upheaval in their lives…they can at least look to God to be their solid “rock” – the one thing that is steady and watching over them, “in control.”

But when I look up the definition of sovereignty and see that it means “supreme power or authority”  – and when I imagine those terms being used by so many to describe the Living God – it just doesn’t sit as well with me anymore.

Perhaps it was when I first read Greg Boyd’s “God of the Possible” that my anti-TULIP feelings were given a bit more freedom to explore God’s nature. Perhaps it was getting the chance to write a paper on an “open” view of God during my first semester of seminary that allowed me to wrestle with these topics a bit more. Perhaps it was just my life experiences and hoping for something more than God as Puppeteer…

When I was in college and when I thought of God’s sovereignty, it was usually communicated in such a way that I thought God had my entire life planned out: my wife, my job….everything. One path. And if I stepped off that path…well, I didn’t WANT to think about that.

It was in the spring of my freshman year that I walked into Jerry Sittser’s office with one of the greatest and most challenging theological problems of my life: which summer camp should I work at…?

I had this sense that if I chose the “wrong” camp – God would say “screw you” and I’d be off on the wrong path, destined for the fiery pits of hell. Thankfully, Jerry talked some sense into me, and helped me to see that it didn’t even really MATTER where I chose. Rather, God would be with me in either of those situations; my faith and my spiritual life became more of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, rather than trying to search through the halls of the Library of Congress for “Adam Walker Cleaveland: The Life Story.”

I do believe God is sovereign, but I think when we place the emphasis there, we too often come out with a God who is stoic, static, unmovable and all-powerful to a fault. I think if we think of a more dynamic, organic, relationally-focused God who hopes for participation and openness between both God and creation – then perhaps we could be on a better path. It doesn’t mean we don’t trust in God’s sovereignty or uphold that as an important idea at the right time – it just means that it is not the only adjective that we should be using to describe God.