Several months ago, my family and I became obsessed with the soundtrack of Hamilton. (Hard to pinpoint exactly why, but it appealed to every member of my family…perhaps another blog post about its musical genius.) For me, it provided an avenue for conversation with my kids…about music, theater, and history, but also about the complexity of our humanity. The desire to leave a legacy of good coupled with a propensity toward sin within the same individual. One bit of Hamilton dialogue, “The Constitution’s a mess/ So it needs amendments/ It’s full of contradictions/ So is independence,” would not leave me alone. It pestered me because our family was trying to make some decisions, and I wanted to make the right choice. Our freedom to choose, not Bill of Rights freedom, for which I am grateful, but our God-given volition, puts us as Jesus-followers, in a complicated position at times. Our independence is full of contradiction. Being submitted to God’s authority, yet given the freedom to choose.
As my husband and I are empowering our oldest daughter to make more decisions on her own, I feel this tension of choice differently. Recently, she thoughtfully and prayerfully approached choices about what high school to attend and where to play soccer. She came to conclusions, but they were not necessarily what I wanted her to do! (Oh, no!) I had to sit with the Lord and pray. I had to pry my anxious mommy fingers off her, restrain my desire to protect her from potential disaster, and let her decide. I had to trust her heart to Jesus, to be her safety and security in an unknown future where he has already promised to be with her.
If I took away her choice, backtracked and overrode her decisions, that would not be real freedom or a step toward independence for her. (More accurately, I want her to take steps toward dependence on God instead of dependence on her parents.) She needs to know that she is capable of making a wise, God-honoring decision, and that her parents believe in her ability to do so. We trust that God really does hold her future. Her choices and their consequences are all part of His relationship with her. A mature life with Jesus as Lord is full of choices, using our God-given freedom. Sometimes we choose wisely and receive all God’s best in a given situation, but even if we don’t, God is with us in his ability to redeem; He is with us as we hold on to Him and work through the positive and negative outcomes of our choices. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)
In letting my baby bird use her own wings (cheesy, sorry), I know that God respects me in the same way. He allows me to choose. He doesn’t force me into anything. Sometimes I wish he would just tell me step-by-step what to do, and my rule-following self would do it — an easy to follow formula for a God-honoring life. But time after time, as I ask for clarity about a decision, He does clearly tell me, “Just choose. It is your choice.” For the point of our independence and all this decision making, God’s intent, is always to deepen connection with me, to engender trust, to keep me close to him, talking with him, learning to listen, expressing my need, showing gratitude when I see Him meet my need, when I see him meet me.
Since I increasingly know him and his goodness, my choice is increasingly in line with his best for me. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God says, “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” I am given the freedom to choose and am learning, always learning, to use my liberty confidently to secure blessing. If you are facing a choice, the real answer may be simply to lean in a little closer to Jesus. He wants to love us much more than he wants us to simply make a right choice. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) This intimate knowing of the Lord is the goal. This is his design as we exercise our freedom to choose.
Living closely and listening closely to my redeemer, Jesus.