A little card I had reminded me that we are a result of a thought of God and not some meaningless product of evolution; we are each willed, loved and necessary. I have had it for a while because it makes me realize that I can choose to be a purpose- filled, focused, directional, choice and chance-believing human being or not.
A parentís most important vocation, apart from that of being a godly wife or husband, is to bring up children who are armed with confidence to face the world in adulthood. There are no limits to which a child will go if brought up to feel that his existence in this universe is of significance. Human beings are programmed to continuously and consciously search for significance, identification and definition. They seem to attach great importance to anotherís regard and appreciation for them. In a toddler, this is seen in the attention seeking that precedes a naughty act followed by an attempt to toe the line if only to keep the nurturer happy. Kohlbergís psychological theory talks of good girl/ bad girl approach to moral reasoning whereby the childís main concern is reasoning about right and wrong at around age ten.
As the child approaches adolescence, there is a shift towards conceptualizing what he has hitherto learnt. Whereas there was an effort to do right earlier, the teenager struggles to come up with his own values. The earlier innate desire to do well is now replaced with possible rebellion as the duality of nature comes into play. It is at this stage of choice, which is God-given, that is noted to continue haunting development. Recently I asked eleven year old pupils in sixth grade what they thought would happen if they engaged in sex with someone who was infected with the Aids virus; did they think they would be infected or would God consider them too young and protect them from infection? Wide eyed, they agreed that they were as susceptible as the next person to infection. In that moment I realized how I had somehow shattered their innocence but I had also brought to fore the issue of choice for a human being of whatever age.
Over the years, I have learnt that God implants choice in us at creation. A baby is born with the choice to suckle or die and innately chooses the former. As he grows, he learns to make choices that benefit him, crying when he is hungry or needs a nappy change; rewarding his nurturer with a smile, this too being a choice to make another happy as he himself is. In the preschool years, he is at it again, listening carefully to the Sunday school teacher or risk a chiding. Finally as a teenager he makes a choice to either follow in his peers shoes or refer to the wise counsel of his nurturer and go it alone.
Life is measured in time and all our actions from childhood to adulthood finally define who we are, who we will be and where we will be in future. As decisions are made on a day to day basis to study or not, to take advice or not, to purposefully pursue a career or not, or simply to marry or not, the issue of choice takes precedence over everything else taking us to where the Creator saw us going at creation; for he remains the only one who works backwards by weaving our future into our present. In Ephesians 2:10 we are told that we are Godís workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. What He therefore implanted in us and what we refer to as choice is really a compass to direct our steps so as to reach our so called destiny; this brings up the issue of providence. Are we totally helpless when it comes to our destiny? If, as the inscription on the card intimates, we are here as a result of a thought of God; did He not also see and plan our path? Are we therefore unable to control the choices we make?
These questions went through my mind for a long time before I found the answers I had been searching for in a Spiritual Formation class. I learnt that God cares deeply about us and is willing to be persuaded in prayer to change the outcomes of our lives. 1Corinthians 3:9 we are reminded that we are Godís fellow workers. He has placed a window through which we can co-create and co-labour with Him in determining the outcomes of prayer. In Exodus 32:14 God changes His mind about a disaster He had threatened; this is made possible through the intercession of Moses. In the book of 2Kings 20:1-6 God spares King Hezekiahís life and adds him more time after the latter petitions him.
The universe is not pre-set and unchangeable. Obedience is only to Godís precepts. He can yet hear our cries and save us from the bad choices that we have made in accordance with His unchanging love. The dual nature of the choice shows that God always has a plan B; He created male and female; light and darkness; good and bad and most importantly, He made it possible for us to say yes or no to everything and anything. He continues bringing into being more and more people and in each one implants the intangible aspect of choice.
Purpose is a matter of choice; however, in allowing us the ability to determine the outcomes of our lives, our God introduces another important aspect of chance. Despite the fact that this window exists, many are they that do not know of its existence and are therefore left out of its restoring qualities. This does not augur well with those who look for their purpose in life without taking advantage of existing opportunities which masquerade as the chances they ignore. Recently, I came across an article in one of our local dailies about how paying it is to be a French, Spanish or German translator. For a short stint of three days, one can laugh all the way to the bank yet translators have to be flown in from foreign countries because of the dire shortage of the same in our country. How many people have ever really thought of stepping out of their comfort zones and taking this course on? Our young men and women continue languishing in dreams of getting white collar jobs when they could be masters of their own destinies, globe trotting to do translations all over the world at somebody elseís cost!
The dictionary defines destiny as something determined in advance by fate. I now believe that God only knows about our future and our end because of His deity; it is something that cannot be helped. He is our creator and has to know where we are headed; however, the fact that He implants everything necessary at conception or creation, is a pointer to the fact that He leaves the reigns of determination of who we want to be to us, such that each one of us is exactly where he or she wants to be, whether wallowing in poverty and deprivation or cushioning in wealth. Through hard work and focus, we have seen the dreams of one seven year old boy translated into reality forty years later when he was elected president of the most powerful nation in the world-the USA. Systematic planning, focus and making the right moral choices in life can see us meet with our destiny. Even the very dream to be that great person is an implant of God.
We are created to commune with God if our success is to have any meaning or give us any joy. God rewards hard work in the same way He punishes sin for both believers and non-believers. The advantageous edge the believers have is in their being filled with His wisdom and knowledge to wisely manage the acquisitions. Yes we are willed, yes we are necessary, yes we are loved, but our purpose in life is to use what we finally get at the end of the road of hard work and sacrifice to benefit the rest of humanity. When we only acquire for ourselves, we will forever be enslaved by the monster of craving for more after the cars and the houses. The void on the inside will remain unfilled. God has taken care of that too, that if we fail to seek Him, then we will have to contend with the emptiness that comes with acquisitions. He is the answer to the peace and joy that we crave to possess but which eludes us with more purchases. Christ was the epitome of simplicity and service through living by example; yet we remain seeing but blind, hearing but deaf. We are unable to connect our happiness to that of our neighbors.
Everything is vanity if God is not in it. He has, through Christ given meaning to our lives so that we may live more abundantly. We may have made some bad choices in the past but the good news is that in God all things work for good for those that love him. He remains the greatest designer in the universe because no matter how crooked the design may sometimes look; He works with that too to glorify His name by giving it a worthwhile final touch. Ultimately, all else is vanity.