I imagine myself at breakfast with God, sitting across from one
another at Pig N' Pancake, sipping coffee and marveling at the White
Sox - when the waitress walks over.
"What can I get you?" she asks...something in her accent sounds
Always the decisive one, Our Lord pipes up, "Number three please."
"How would like your eggs?"
"Poached hard, and rye toast please."
"Great. And for you sweetie?"
What do I do? The creator of everything in the universe, including
eggs, just ordered two of them poached. The guy who knows everything
about everything, including this chef's strengths and weaknesses,
decided against the "award winning sourdough pancakes." What does that
really <italic>mean</italic>? Is it unwise to get breakfast four -
pigs in a blanket? Is it foolish to get my eggs over medium? Is it a
sin for me to order a cinnamon roll?
What I'm really asking is whether or not God has opinions. Is it safe
for me to order whatever breakfast I want, even Spam, baked beans,
sausage and Spam, or does any divergence from His perfect will
constitute foolishness at best, or wickedness at worst? Are there such
things as morally neutral choices? Where we truly enjoy liberty in
every sense of the word - not simply the liberty to obey or conform,
to toe the line or to rebel, but real liberty to make a choice between
two or more equally sinless options.
I can imagine myself in that moment, looking nervously between the
waitress and my savior. "I'll have pigs in..." but then He patiently
starts to shake his head...smiling of course...but definitely advising
against that course. "Um...how 'bout a Belgian..." another subtle
shake of the head and the waitress starts to look at me with pity. "I
think...I'll have..." He looks at me expectantly with a sort of "you
can do it!" grin of encouragement. "...um...blintzes?"
But I can also imagine my Lord looking at me with no sense of
evaluation at all. No disappointment, no approval, no surprise -
simply waiting for me to order so we can go back to baseball talk. He
couldn't care less what I ate or how the eggs are prepared - the
choice is entirely mine.
I know the sovereignty crowd will bite their knuckles, but I've come
to believe that God gives us a great deal of freedom to live our lives
the way we see fit. Yes - there are boundaries. Yes - He usually has
input and advice to offer. Yes - He has a bigger plan laid out for me
- good deeds that He has prepared in advance for me to do. But what
does it mean to say 'all things are permissible, but not all things
are profitable" if we cleave so closely to the God's Perfect Will line
that in any given circumstance there is actually only ONE thing that
is both permissible and presumably profitable?
Part of this thought rises up out of my distaste for the doctrine of
total depravity. But I can certainly see how these two thoughts (T.D.
and soverignity) support one another. If no good thing can ever come
out of me, then certainly I can't be trusted to make even the simplest
decision. Everything that comes out of me is tainted. But part of the
promise of the new covenant is that God will provide me with a new
heart - a good heart; one made of flesh to replace the heart of stone.
If it's true that Christ is IN ME - that my heart has become the
tabernacle of the Spirit of God - how can that heart be wholly
corrupt? If you drop me, I fall to Him. If you break me, I bring my
pieces to Him. If you wound me, I cry out to Him. If that is my
baseline response, the deepest impulse of my soul - how can the
deepest part of me be desperately wicked?
So often, I find that clarity comes when I allow God to close the
distance between us. When I allow Him to display His humanity to me -
as weird as that can get sometimes, but more recently this has
happened when I've allowed Him to show me my own glory - the part of
me that was truly made in His image, the part of me that was fearfully
and wonderfully made, those parts of me that God made strong, a little
lower than the angels, and adopted into His kingdom, destined to judge
those same angels and take up a scepter and a crown...someday. The
glory that is mine not because I've earned but for no other reason
than that it pleased him to invest some of himself in me.
In that case - my own will can be good; to the degree to which my own
will is LIKE his, but not his. I'm not splitting hairs here. Allowing
for the possibility that my own will can be redeemed allows for the
possibility that God might leave certain decisions entirely up to me.
"Lord, what should I study in college? Should I marry this girl?
Should I let my kids read Harry Potter?"
If every decision we make has moral weight, then we need answers like
"Biology. No. Yes, but not until they're 15." and to do otherwise puts
us on the sin road. But if the authentic Christian experience contains
more subtlety and complexity than that, more nuance - than the ways in
which we learn to grapple with complex questions of good and evil, or
just good and better, become more important, and far more eternal,
than any given decision, including life changing decisions like
marriage, career and kids. Even those decisions with potentially
eternal consequences - being a jury member in a capital case for
example, are wholly different because our own hearts and minds and
motivations enter the mix. Learning to abide in his glow without being
subsumed by it, we're no longer rebellious puppets simply asked to
accept the hand in our backs but something far more interesting, far
more powerful, far, far more dangerous. We are little princes and
princesses practicing for our future roles.
"You are my friends...no longer do I call you servants...but I have
called you friends for all that I have heard from the father, I have
made known to you." John 15: 14:15