Flights of Faith

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Struggle and Power of Choice

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" - Albus Dumbledore

I was struck by this quote after reading it a few years back. Are choices more powerful than our abilities, I mused. In the end, I concluded that it had to be that way. We can be blessed with abilities or stumble upon them but choices are products of our character - of who we choose to be in this world.

Unfortunately, choices are the very thing our generation of twentysomethings has not mastered. In fact, our ability to maintain uncomitted enslaves us. How does this play itself out? We constantly value freedom over choices that bring about any sort of limitations. This can be seen in the transient nature of picking songs on iPods to amplify our world constantly or keeping options open for summer internships instead of investing and sacrificially in one project. We also see this play out in friendships. Whose friendship will yield returns? Economic metaphors are everywhere in these decisions.

I've even felt it explode into the scene of faith. Why commit to a certain path when you can choose what to follow yourself? At first, this sounds egalatarian and even freeing. What's more powerful than using our free will to construct and orient a way of life? The only problem is rampant choices breed a lack of discipline. In the lens of faith, we can quickly create a God that looks exactly like us as opposed to a God who loves us, yet convicts us of wrongdoing. A God who challenges us, but transforms us for the better. Through picking some of anything, we become people who follow nothing except our own confused desires.

In the tradition of Christianity, Jesus is someone who tremendously respects choice. "Follow me," he says to the disciples. "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water," he says to a woman at a well. Jesus constantly empowers us to choose but also doesn't wait around for our answer.

Part of my struggle of late has been my decision of choosing community as a way of life. It's one thing to commit to a God who loves you, saves you, and redeems your whole life. This is especially true if you "taste and see" that Jesus' offer is actually working out for you life (something that has little negative consequences for your life at first). It's another to commit to people in service and in love knowing that each act of sincere love draws us deeper and deeper into caring for one another - a process that can be interrupted anytime by sin, betrayal, illness, and death. Honestly, I don't mean to present a bleak picture. It's just the nature of our lives.

Love is celebratory for sure. But choosing to love is always in the context of a broken world under serious threat. I had a moment of remembrance today. It was a memory from sophomore year or junior year of college. I felt alone in my faith among people, but fully with Christ. That independence was freeing, but I think it was somewhat deceptive.

Community is stronger. Its mystery energizes our collective faith. And it releases a different sort of testimony not just of one, but of many. Honestly, it does hurt. But it is the right choice.

God, please help all of our communities to be strong, loving, and to have You at the center. In Jesus' name, Amen.


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