No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends. You did not choose me, but I chose you…. (John 15:15-16)
Decisions are such an important part of life. Daily we make big and little decisions which seem to affect our lives and those of others. We decide what to wear, what to eat, when and what to say to each other, how to vote, to retaliate in anger or to ignore a hurtful act by another, to be loving or hateful, to be kind or mean spirited, to work or to rest. The list goes on and on. Decisions are hugely important. But sin, being what it is, seems to distort those decisions. So easily we come to look at our decisions, and those of others, as more determinative of outcomes than they really are. Quickly we become so self-centered that we imagine our decisions are the very most important things that are going on in our lives.
We feel tremendous pressure to make better decisions. We face hard times and think that the decision we make will bring happiness or misery, life or death even. We look at the lives of others and convince ourselves that they have chosen to be where they are and, if they don’t like where they are, it’s pretty much their fault because they’ve made their bed and now they have to lie in it.
Sin, I would suggest, or maybe even the devil himself, lures us to believe that our ability to choose is the single-most important thing in the world. How we choose determines how we will be. We are in charge, or we can be if we choose well enough, we think. We are calling the shots. We are the center of the universe.
Well, of course our decisions are important. I make choices and decisions which have a ripple effect in my life and yours. I could easily this day make some decisions or choices which could cause tremendous difficulty, not only for myself, but for each of you as members of St. John’s. I could tarnish the grand reputation of this parish. I could set us back several years by one scandalous decision. Each of us has tremendous responsibilities in life, and learning to make good, healthy decisions is so very important.
But how easy it is to get so focused on those decisions, those choices, that we completely forget basic truths about our existence. We are not the center of the universe. We are not the sole determiners of outcome. We do not make all that is good in the world by our decisions. We do not destroy all that is good when we make mistakes. There is a force greater than ourselves in life. There is a goodness, a guiding and directing goodness, which is at work in every little detail of life. We make choices but something far beyond us has already made choices, made decisions, acted in such a way that an abiding grace exists in the landscape of our lives. We did not create it, nor can we destroy it. It is there before us. It will be there after us. It is there if we never notice it or never choose to trust it. It exists by its own power, not by ours.
That grace, that force, that being far beyond us, is the ultimate determiner of outcomes; that thing, that being, makes all things possible. That is the center of the universe, the center of all the universes, the creator of all that we know, that we can know, and that we can never know. We are the children of that great being, the Almighty God and Father of all, the great Spirit which moves in the world. We choose. We decide. But God has already chosen and will always decide what is what.
God has set things up so that there is something to choose. Our decisions don’t make goodness. Our decisions are basically to participate in the goodness or opt out of it. And in each situation, the choice is given again. The fact that there is goodness to choose of course means that it is there beyond our power to create it. That goodness has chosen to love us, has befriended us. And we can go with it if only we say yes to it.
This day, and every day, you have so many choices to make. But basically each choice is simply yes or no. Will I trust the goodness God has in store for me? Or will I try to create goodness for myself? Whatever decisions you have to make this day – though they are important and though there are responsibilities that fall only to you – whatever decisions you must make today are preceded and followed by God’s choice to love you, to bless you, to guide you. Choose well. And know that God always chooses to love you.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.