Now that I have your attention, let us consider "choice" in its humble and homely meaning before its celebrity as the canonized patron of feminism. It did belong to us, you know, as in the old hymn, "I have decided to follow Jesus" (which, I understand, is fallen out of favor in part for its Arminian suggestiveness), or, more authoritatively, in Moses' plea, "Choose life!" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
"Choice" gets a bad rap for the bad company it keeps, hanging around NOW headquarters and family-planning clinics; and also, in more sanctified circles, because at first glance it smacks of works righteousness and threats to grace. But with your indulgence, I would like to cast my 700 words today to plead for the rehabilitation of "choice."
What I have discovered is that there are seasons in the Christian's pilgrimage in which different elements come to the fore. At times of severe testing of faith-the faith that is by grace-it is the element of choice that stands out for me, or more descriptively, that throbs.
Have you ever allowed yourself, for five minutes of sheer folly, to walk up to the brink of apostasy and consider jumping-only to find yourself spontaneously echoing Peter, this time not as a Bible study trivia question: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
When life is a smooth, unruffled pond, or when for the occasional stretch of road one's own will runs blissfully parallel to God's decretive will, then faith is easy, pleasing. But times come too when it seems that faith is a high-stakes gamble on which you have bet your life. (It was no problem when it was the other guy's life.) Arcane arguments about faith versus choice melt away: It's one plodding foot in front of the other. That's faith. That's choice.
In a chalet in Switzerland, in 1974, Francis Schaeffer told a collection of backpacking seekers, yours truly among them, about a dark night of the soul, when he announced to his wife Edith that he had to think it all through from the beginning. And as she prayed inside, he paced in his garage for months, stacking brick upon brick to see if he could reconstruct the reasonable edifice on which he had laid his faith. The choice he made is history.
May my pastor always strike the gong most forcefully for grace! But go too far in underplaying choice and man's response, and you may find you lose the ability to see that your days are made of moments and your moments are made of choices. Lose sight of choice, and faith is an abstraction. Make faith an abstraction and soon you'll be doing all kinds of mischief under the hollow cry of "faith." "Do I trust in the Lord? Sure I do-in principle."
I know a man who thought he had a big choice to make one day. It involved a decision regarding employment, and he approached the phone with fear and trembling. His wife, witnessing the spectacle, offered perspective, "You know, this isn't even the most important choice you'll make all day."
Won't we all be surprised, when on the other side of the Jordan, we wake up to find that the big choices in our lives were really the small ones, and the small ones were really the big ones. Did I tremble years ago before the prospect of which house to buy, which car was best? Would that I had trembled a little more over which words and tone I used with my husband, my children.
And if this is the way it is, that the deep fabric of your day is a string of choices, then being "pro-choice" is about as radical as being pro-breathing, or pro-sunset. The more interesting question is where the choices come from.
Which brings us round to that other "pro-choice" thing, whose proponents apparently conceive of choice as sui generis, pure self-origination. But there is no such thing: You are, at any given moment, either following the promptings of God or the promptings of the flesh. No escape from determinism for them. No freedom the way they mean it. The only kind worthy of the name is the kind God gives.
And so, though my husband is gone, and "though the fig tree does not bud," I have made a conscious choice. Of course I will find, behind the curtain, that it was granted to me all along, but on this side it feels like naked resolution: I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.