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The Power of Choice
by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur
What was God thinking when he gave us free will? Surely, this is a valid question, perhaps one that even God himself has asked. God is revealed in the book of Genesis as one somewhat surprised by his own creation. It is almost as if God never considered the possibility that humanity would choose to reject Him, or choose evil over good. Both God and humanity had to face the consequences of that decision. Karen Armstrong tells us in In the Beginning that "the omnipotent deity was no longer in control of his creation; eager to bless his creatures, he was forced to curse them. Having pronounced the world to be good, God had discovered that some of the qualities he had given to humankind lead to evil and destruction."1 On humanity's side we have had to face being expelled from the divine presence. We spend our lives having to deal with the negative results of our own and other's decisions, and yearning to return to God.
It is interesting to note that while humanity was clearly punished for rejecting God, the punishment did not involve revocation of the gift. We continue to possess free will. God created us to know Him and love Him, but he wanted that knowledge and love to be freely given. True knowledge and love can never be coerced. So, then, just like the Biblical Adam and Eve, we retain the power to choose. We can choose whether or not we want to have a relationship with God, whether we wish to pray and attempt to align our own will with God's will for us, or whether we prefer to try to make it on our own and be the "god" of our own existence. God is always there, waiting for us to open our minds and hearts to Him, but we must make the first step. We must start the conversation. This is our fundamental choice in life.
Our freedom of choice is not limited to this one decision, however. We get to make innumerable choices about our lives. Do we get married, stay single, or enter religious life? What career should we choose? Where should we live? What are our priorities in life? What school should our children go to? How do we best care for aging parents? What outfit should we wear tomorrow? What do we want to eat for lunch? Sometimes, it feels as if we have too many choices! It is truly a gift that comes with responsibility.
What about the times in life when life truly hands us a bowl of lemons, when we feel that there truly is no choice? A loved one is killed or badly hurt in an accident. A natural disaster hits and destroys our home. A job is lost unexpectedly. We develop a debilitating disease. What do we do then? Where is our free will in those situations? We can choose to mourn, and let healing take place one slow day at a time. We can choose to take small steps to rebuild our lives. We can choose to continue to struggle in life or to lie down and surrender. Ultimately, we will all die, but even then we have a choice in how we face it. God never takes away our power to choose.
Today, the words "pro-choice" automatically imply one's position on abortion, but God is the ultimate pro-choice advocate. God gave us the power to choose and shape our lives. This is a tremendous power and gift. The challenge is to choose rightly.
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is the editor of The Spiritual Woman Newsletter
and author of "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (iUniverse, 2004)
1 Karen Armstrong, In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996, 34.