“God is in control.”

“Human beings have free will.”

So which is it? Does God cause everything that happens, or do our actions determine the course of events?

These competing theologies lurk under or behind oft-heard quips.

“Everything happens for a reason,” says the God-is-in-control gang.

“What goes around comes around,” answers the free-will-karma crowd.

“God has a plan,” says one.

“Life is what you make it,” replies another.

When your dying child lies helpless in a hospital bed, tubes in her nose and needles in her arm, it’s little comfort to have a well-meaning friend say, “We just don’t understand why God does things, but we must trust that God knows best.” Thank you very much, and don’t let the door hit you on your righteous rear on the way out!

Nor is it much comfort, though, to find yourself at a place where two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and you are left to think there is no one but you who cares which way you travel by. Does free will mean we are out here on our own?

Faith enables paradoxical living. It evens the odds, so to speak. God still holds the majority stake, but we get a voting share in enterprise.

Hear a parable.

A certain woman begins a novel. She constructs a world of fiction. She gives birth to characters. She conceives a story line and plot. She has the end in mind.

Yet a funny thing happens on the way to publication. The characters become so real they take on a life of their own. She wakes up each morning to find she is not just plumbing her imagination to see what she will dream up for them to do in the next chapter, she runs to her computer to find out what they want to do. They turn out to have characters, these characters.

One day, she laughs out loud as she writes what they want to say. Another day, she can hardly see the screen before her on account of her tears over what is happening in the lives of her creations.

Before the reader can be surprised by a turn in the tale, the writer is surprised by the turn in the telling. And that’s all the fun of it.

Yes, she holds power of life and death. With one punch of the DELETE key, it could all be over. But the loss is hers thereby as much as the characters’.

She will get to write the last line in the end, but until THE END, she allows herself to be affected by her creations just as she affects them.