Free Will Like a Shovel in Your Hand
In a coffee shop I overheard a woman say to her husband across the table, her voice wavering on the edge of tears, “There was a moment and you made a choice and this is the consequence.” Her arms and legs were crossed and it was all she could do to hold herself together. “It hurts so much I just don’t know if we’ll survive this.”
It was heartbreaking. I wanted to turn around and say, DUDE! She’s beautiful! Why on earth did you do what you did to jeopardize something you had that was so beautiful!
But when I imagined those moments within myself, I realized I have failed thousands of times. I don’t have a wife to hurt, but I think there is a relationship that suffers in very tangible, serious ways that I just don’t consider very much.
I know we say God will forgive us the moment we repent and everything will be like nothing ever happened. But I wonder if there is something very, very serious at stake when I choose what I do in that very specific moment. And are my empty, flaccid verbal sorries really a sorry if I just choose to go back to my sin again later?
And as I was thinking about all this, I suddenly felt a very palpable thing, as if I hold it in my hands. My Free Will. It is a very real tool, and in very specific moments I use this tool. I can usually point out the very moment I find it in my hands awaiting my decision of what I will do with it. There is a moment I choose how to use it. This tool is as powerful as a sharp metal shovel which can be used violently to destroy or patiently to help things grow. And there are real moments, at a very specific time of day, a specific temperature in the air, a specific place in this city, and in those moments I choose my consequences, like the husband chose.
And I think usually I treat those moments as if they bring very little consequence and I assume I will be forgiven and I can do it again tomorrow because I’ve given a little bit of thought to it and God is pure forgiveness because he understands us, right? Well that wife understood humanity too, and yet it didn’t change the fact that his decision severely damaged the bond between them.
And I am given the heavy honor of spelling out my history with how I choose every now. Of spelling out an eternal history with a series of nows. It is in my court. He’s put part of the fate of my life and this world in my hands. This is the supreme gift to humanity and the greatest burden we bear. And in fact perhaps there will be another very real moment, maybe 12 years, 2 days, and 5 hours from now, standing in a very real courtyard of stone and vines, in a very specific place of the remade earth, before 2 deep and powerful eyes, full of either hurt or pride in how his lover considered his feelings. And he will say “There were so many chances for you to choose me.”
It happens every day. When I soak up all the skin showing on the front of those magazines in the grocery store, or when I choose to do work instead of stopping when I feel God saying just spend a moment with me, when I bark at that person close to me because I know they won’t leave me.
I’m not trying to say God is not love or forgiving. I’m just saying that every decision really carries weight and I so rarely choose rightly. And I rarely consider the full weight of these consequences.
Jesus, we need your help. We want to be your lover. We want to be your faithful children. But the pull of this world on us is so strong.
Come Jesus. Come. I’m not enough. I will fail you again.
I will fail you again. And I’m afraid I just don’t care enough to change. Train my hands how to use this shovel to tend gardens, and plant trees. Trees that will bear fruit that we can give to the world.
Raw Spoon, 5-12-16
(I’m sorry, I made up the overheard husband/wife conversation, because the real situation that triggered this involves someone else and privacy I shouldn’t share. Thanks for your understanding :) hope you don’t feel deceived!)