I was on my way to work this morning when I noticed something curious as I was waiting at an intersection: birds kept landing in the middle of the road. And I kept thinking, “come on birds, get out of the way, some car is going to run you over!” But inevitably, at the last minute, they’d simply bounce into the air and avoid traffic. What struck me was how care-free they seemed. Nothing seemed to bother them as they pecked away at whatever interesting gunk they’d found glued to the pavement. I thought about how nice that might be, to not care about my own mortality, but to find sidewalk crap so interesting that I was oblivious to the dangers around me. I thought about how God takes care of the birds, how they don’t lack for food when they need it.
But then I thought no, some of them do die; some of them get hit by traffic; some of them starve; some of them get eaten by predators; some of them drown; some of them choke on sidewalk crap. And it suddenly felt cruel. But again, they never know the difference; they’re just birds, and their enviable oblivion of past or future has consequences too.
It gives me a new appreciation for how I was created.
God loved us enough - He valued us so much - that He entrusted to us one of the very essences of His own character: choice. He didn’t make us automatons, because that would not be love. The very nature of choice requires an alternative, two options; if what existed in that space simply did as it was told without choice, it would be, in essence, simply an extension of God. To create us, God had to make a place that was NOT God - a huge act of humility, and if you think about it, a risk - so that something other than He could exist. Then, God created us with a say in the relationship, something He could not control.
In other words, the risk God took when creating us was rejection.
The question of evil is endlessly debated, about why God would permit so many horrible things to happen (to people). But I can’t help but wonder how many of the evils we blame on God are consequences of our choices. After all, one might reason that if it’s choice that causes bad things to happen - terrorism, murder, human trafficking, rape, abuse, etc. - then perhaps God ought not have created us with choice.
But therein lies the rub: choice, the very thing that has caused so many problems also gives us our ability to love God. Without the ability to choose, we cannot love, nor would we be able to do other things that make us uniquely human: discovery; creativity; innovation; recreation. It lets us love our spouse or kids or friends; it lets us love our neighbor, even our enemies.
We can choose life, too.
Choice places God at what is, essentially, a disadvantage. But that is part of what love is: the act of giving up control so that others may have the ability to flourish. Love is what it is precisely because of the risk involved. Instead of forcing Himself upon us, God invites us, persuades us, woos us, extends His hand to us, opens His arms to us,
and we get to choose how we’ll answer.