We all know that Christians are very good at being divided and divisive. Sometimes the things they get upset about seem pretty small: the arrangement of the communion plates, the colour of the carpet—I once heard of a church splitting over the shape of the angels’ wings! Most of us roll our eyes and groan when we hear about conflicts over these small things, but what happens when we disagree on things we term theology?
In Christian circles, there is some question over whether God specially chooses those who become Christians as His children, without their having any say in the matter (Calvinism); or whether each person has free choice to choose or reject God (Arminianism). There are ample verses in the Bible supporting both sides of this issue, but some Christians get so agitated that they consider people who hold the opposite viewpoint not to be Christians at all!
Before this, I had concluded that the issue of who chooses whom was a bit of a paradox: somehow both points of view could be true at the same time, but in my limited humanness, I couldn't understand how. I was content to leave it alone and hope that one day God might see fit to explain it to me in heaven.
However, in His tenderness God has shown me a little glimpse of truth before then. I found it deeply touching and thought I would share it with you here.
One day during a conversation with my sister, Julia, she asked, “When you were starting to hear God’s voice, did you ever feel like He had specially chosen you? Like you couldn't possibly not choose Him?”
“No,” I replied.
Peter piped up. “You're starting to get into something that's been the source of theological arguments for centuries. One side says that God always chooses those who will be His. The other side says that we always choose God. I think the truth may actually be in the middle. Sometimes God chooses us—C.S. Lewis, who went into the kingdom kicking and screaming after a relentless pursuit by the “hound of heaven”, would be a good example of this—and sometimes He allows people to choose Him.”
My sister went on, describing how intimate and wonderful it felt to be chosen.
At first, my reaction was to feel a little jealous. Why couldn't God have chosen me, like He’d chosen Julia?
My mind started to replay all those times when I'd chosen God—all those times when I've been surrounded by impossible circumstances, faith-defying odds, and still chosen Him.
A light went on.
“—it's almost like I could never have not chosen Him. He was too compelling. He had chosen me,” she ended.
I told Julia about my earlier jealousy. “But then I realized something," I continued. “God has given me exactly what I need. Because of the abuse I experienced in my past, my default has been to feel as though I don't have a choice. A prime characteristic of abuse is lack of control—the removal of the abused person's right to choose what he or she wants or doesn't want. This sense of powerlessness can carry on long after the abuse has ended. I went out with two boyfriends, not because I particularly liked them, but because I didn't think I had a choice. God knows this. He knows what I need, and over the course of my life, again and again He’s been giving me the choice whether to follow Him or not. For me, feeling compelled would only deepen my wounds, not heal them.”
Even as I considered this, I realized that every single most victorious moment in my life had been characterized by choice—another decision made to love and obey God.
Julia sat back, stunned. “This is amazing. I'm the exact opposite. All my life, I've always felt that I'm not good enough. That I don't have anything special to offer. For me, the feeling that God has chosen me is incredibly meaningful.”
We sat there, gazing across the ocean at each other through our web cameras, tears in our eyes.
“God has given us both exactly what we need.”
Searching for Special
We each instinctively feel that we are somehow special, somehow worthy of love in a way that is unique to us. We go about trying to prove this, by breathtaking achievement, by embracing quirkiness, by celebrating our differences in ways that scream for attention, recognition, appreciation.