Frank Sinatra Proudly Sang “I Did It My Way”… What About Doing It God’s Way?

In his famous velvet voice Ol’ Blue Eyes crooned:

I lived a life that’s full

I’ve traveled each and every highway

But more, much more than this

I did it my way

Frank popularized the song “My Way” in 1969. In a recent Sabbath School class at Sligo Church we discussed people blindly following autocratic religious organizations like ISIS. This sparked my thoughts to Frank’s song that praised independent thinking and doing.

A Good or Bad Song?

I recalled this song I heard some 50 years earlier because it evoked such strong negative reactions from two clergy. Shortly after hearing Frank sing it, I heard a sermon from an Adventist guest minister at Spencerville Church in Silver Spring, MD. His message was this song is bad. You should do things God’s way and not your own way. He implied: You find God’s way from God’s true church primarily by heeding Adventist church pastors and other leaders.

Unbelievably I heard almost the same sermon on the radio a few months later by a Roman Catholic priest. Only the endings were different. The priest said God’s true church was the Catholic Church and one should get directions from priests and the Pope, who is infallible when issuing edicts in the matters of faith and morals.

Some might agree the song was bad and say Frank’s message was self-centered On the other hand some would say the song lyrics carry a good message. Frank admits in the song that he made mistakes but he did it his way and took responsibility for his actions.

When Barbara Bush died, Gordon Gray, White House counsel for her husband, eulogized her by saying, “She did it her way.” Charles Krauthammer, the conservative columnist, wrote an op-ed article in the Washington Post saying he only had a few weeks to live and, “I leave this life with no regrets…I lived the life I intended.” At John McCain’s memorial service they played Frank’s recording of “My Way.” On the other hand, Michael Gerson, former head speech writer for George W. Bush, wrote this about an elected official he felt was narcissistic, “The sound track of his whole life has been Frank Sinatra crooning I did it my way.”

Making Important Life Decisions

To the question of doing it either our way or Gods way, let’s also consider the important influence of parents and spouses. By God’s way we include the influence of the Church hierarchy and the clergy who some claim are God’s representatives here on earth. Here are a few examples of people making life decisions.

Choosing a Career

Robert was majoring in business at an Adventist college but a college staff member advised him to switch to pre-med which he did. He was in anatomy lab at Loma Linda School of Medicine dissecting a cadaver when an MD, who was not too happy with his own work, dropped by to see him. He sensed Robert didn’t really enjoy what he was doing and told him, “Put down those instruments right now and walk out of here and never come back.” Two weeks later he dropped out of medical school. After leaving medical school he studied information technology and never once regretted doing it his way.

An Adventist minister asked me what kind of work I was going to do now that I had finished college. I told him I had an engineering position with the Federal Government. He said, “You’re wasting your time in worldly work; you should work for the Church.” These words struck a blow to my ideal thinking that public service for one of the World’s greatest democracies was noble work. He failed to mention that Romans 13:6 in The Living Bible says, “government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing God’s work.”

Selecting a Spouse

Steve Roberts, currently a political commentator, was the son of non-religious Jewish parents. Cokie Boggs, also a commentator, was a daughter of practicing Roman Catholics. They became friends in 1962 and Steve’s family strongly opposed the idea of his marrying a non-Jew. Steve did it his way and married Cokie. She took it upon herself to make Judaism a part of their lives and encouraged Steve to celebrate Jewish holidays. Steve’s father said Cokie, a Catholic, was the best Jew in the family.

Selecting and Practicing a Religion

The father of my friend, Richard Coffman, was baptized an Adventist but stopped going to church while he was still young. He married a Catholic girl but he started attending the Adventist church again. The first time he took his wife to church the minister preached on the mark of the beast, a message unfavorable to Catholics. This was more than his Roman Catholic wife could take. She stood up and yelled out, “You’re a damn liar,” and stormed out of the church. The Catholic wife eventually became an Adventist. She did it her husband’s way in the beginning by going to church with him, did it her way when she called down the minister, and did it her way again (or was it God’s way?) when she joined the church.

The late Peter Hare was an organic geo-chemist and one of the leaders at the General Conference’s Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) that supported well-qualified and church-loyal scientists to study the origin of the earth. The Church financed Peter while he attended Cal Tech to earn a PhD. The Church was not happy with him after graduating; there were parts of the Bible creation story he couldn’t support. He was always loyal to the Church even thought he was conflicted because he was unable to always reconcile the ambiguities between science and the scripture on the origin of the earth and human beings. He resigned from the GRI and took a position at the Carnegie Institute of Science where he had a successful career. He did it his way.

Finding God’s Way

The Adventist fundamental beliefs hold that both the Bible’s Old and New Testaments are the Word of God. They also say Ellen G. White is a messenger of God and her writings are an authoritative source of truth. The frequency of ministers quoting Mrs. White has gone from almost always, to seldom if ever. Many of her writings are strong do it God’s way messages. She wrote, “Trust God and he will direct your ways…we have not the wisdom to plan our own lives. It’s not for us to shape our future.” On the other hand, when people contacted her for inspired advice she would often tell them to make their own decisions, use reason and judgment, and use your common sense

While she didn’t tell members to look to the ministers for a personal message from God, there seems to be a Church folklore that ministers do bring personal messages to us from God. Once at an Adventist church service someone prayed, “Dear Father, we know our pastor is gifted and receives messages from you.”

I reviewed writings by several Christian theologians on how to find God’s plan for one’s life and I summarized the results as four different methods. The first is to search the scripture and pray. It includes getting additional help from God which he gives through super natural means: dreams, premonitions, visions, or directly talking to people.

The second approach includes reading scriptures and praying plus seeking counsel from wise, godly people. But the writers give mixed messages on seeking counsel from “have confidence in your church leaders and submit to their authority” to “it is wrong to be totally dependent on others for guidance.” 1 John 4:1 (TLB) says “…don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it’s a message from God…”

The third approach involves the use of divination. In my review of Christian theologians I did not find anyone recommending this approach. Rather, they discouraged it. However, I have heard about Christians using this method. They randomly flip through the Bible and where it opens they blindly run their finger down the page to find the text with a special message.

The fourth approach recommends looking for broad principles when searching for God’s way. God has no special plan for our lives. What he wants for you is what he wants for everyone else: love God and other people, and live a life of integrity.

Conclusions

Whose guidance should one use to help make important life decisions: your own, God, clergy, parents, or spouse? And if it is God’s, how would one find God’s plan for their life? Career guidance from ministers who have no vocational counseling training should be carefully scrutinized.

I believe Frank’s song, “My Way,” has a good message. One should do it their way. It means thinking for yourself, taking responsibility, and not being a yes-man. And doing it my way and God’s way are not mutually exclusive. Do both. We have reviewed several approaches to finding God’s plan for our life. The approach I feel most comfortable with says God has no special specific plan for your life. Rather what he wants for you is what he wants for everyone else.

If one gets discouraged with some of the Church’s teachings and practices one can be like Peter Hare and try to keep their integrity and yet remain loyal to the Church. Remember it’s directed by human beings. The late John Dingell served in the U.S. Congress for 59 years, more than anyone else in American history. Someone said that he was such a successful legislator because he was able to live with ambiguities. This may be the key to living a successful religious life.

Heber Bouland began attending Cradle Roll Sabbath School in 1932 when he was four years old. He is a retired systems analyst and is now an artist and author of The Last Trolley Stop, a memoir about growing up in Takoma Park during the Great Depression. He currently resides in Columbia, Maryland with his wife, Dolores.

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9650
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In choosing one’s Life Occupation one needs to realize that over the long
term God can use us doing what we have FUN doing.
Many persons discover that as they go through life it is OK to CHANGE
occupations and continue having FUN and enjoyment.
It is important to understand that no matter what occupation[s] we choose in
life it will NOT destroy our ability to have a daily relationship with the Creators
of Life.
God wants us to have JOY. And God will encourage us to have JOY in
whatever we choose to do.
God will also find ways to have us meet other persons in life who will INVITE
us to join them in doing NEW FUN things. Learning new skills that one never
even entered one’s mind of doing prior to being invited.
Saying YES! opens many paths, short and long excursions, into having more
FUN and exciting experiences. And meeting persons, helping persons we had
not known were around, and making friends with these persons.

“Happiness” is something our Founding Fathers rightly said we pursue all our
lives.
“Joy”, according to the Paul and other Bible contributers can be had NOW.

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Amen to that brother!

One might even say, “Paul did it his way”.

Gal. 1:16,17 “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.”

Gal. 2:6: “for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.”

The opposite extreme is to be an indiscriminate follower and fall into the trap that Christ warned us about:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

I think we sometimes read too much into what a song is saying (though some are obviously bad). My father-in-law was was a huge fan of Frank Sinatra.

I agree with you that “Your way” and “God’s way” can be in agreement.

I’m not a big fan of “Christian” music. So much of it seems contrived and commercial IMO. I feel secular music is much more honest and expressive. I guess that makes me a heretic in the music department.

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Unless you’e very young, most people have some idea about their life choices by the time they need to be made. I don’t know of anyone who has changed their choice for a life partner, or an occupation simply because of advice from an older and “wiser” person.

Whatever our choices have been, God is able to “work out all things for good, for those who love the Lord”.

I was newly appointed to the Board at Loma Linda the chair was a VP of the General Conference. An issue came up for a vote. Everyone but me responded with a yes.I said no. The chair said, Tom we never had a no vote before.Would you please change your vote. I said thank you but no.I am happy with my vote and I am contend that I was overruled. shortly after there was a break Someone detained me in the restroom. As I emerged, I heard the chair say, we now have a unanimous vote. he directed the recording sec. to record the second vote and remove the preceding vote… He looked at me an smiled. I still served two terms before I was replaced with aa yes man.

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Dr. Zwemer,
It’s stories like this that are totally discouraging in Adventism. Have seen tens of them, if not hundreds.

I just finished reading the (excellent) Desmond Ford’s biography, by Milton Hook @milton007. The whole history is mind boggling, but the Glacier View (before, during, and after) events are deeply disturbing and totally frustrating. One easily feels angry reading the mafiosi type manipulations and dishonesty perpetrated by several individuals like Parmenter, (Neal) Wilson, the Standish brothers, etc. Those people are (were) real vultures, people with no credibility, people who did not keep their word, people who lied, people who misled, people who lacked character even though they called themselves Adventists and Christians. Based on their behavior, for me they are (were) nothing but SD "Al Capones," leading the SDAC… A total disgrace to the Christian community at large.

As I was reading the book I was often thinking of the title of an excellent book by John Dean, “Conservatives Without Conscience.” There is indeed a relationship!..

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Sandbox theology correctly understood is valid today. The Christian walk begins with washing. then on enters an entirely new world of light, food and prayer to a God who for now is hidden by a veil until He come out to claim a His own by adoption.
As adopted into a Godly family let us rejoice and serve as He demonstrated for all. yes let us do it His way.

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A great message, wry humor—well done, Heber!

This is the key, especially for one born into this Church who found Christ in the process of growing up in the system.

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