We are all pro-choice. The “freedom to choose” is among the most sacred tenets of our culture. If something offers people “more choice” in some matter (Which television program will I watch? Which yogurt will I buy? What gender shall my baby be?), it’s pretty much an assumed blessing.
So it caught my attention Sunday when I opened the gospel and read the words of Jesus to his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). What do you mean, we didn’t choose you? Isn’t that the burning question for would-be Christians—Have you chosen Christ, accepted Christ, followed Christ?
It’s comforting to think that we had the good sense to choose the Way, the Truth and the Life. But it’s just the other way around. The life of God has chosen us.
This reversal of choice reminds me of the wisdom of that saying, “everything has already happened.” As humbling—or frustrating!—as it is to acknowledge it, we don’t make our life, we accept it. That’s what you do with gifts. But mostly we don’t think of life as a gift to be accepted. It’s a success story yet to be written, a happy-ending waiting on one more chapter and one more chapter, a tour de force temporarily detoured. It is our life and it will be what we make of it.
Jesus’ words tell us otherwise. It is not your life. It is God’s gift to you, and it will be what it will be. Your job is to bow before that mystery and try to get out of its way; let it happen.
That’s hard for willful people because what we have to accept is that the whole of our life is chosen, the parts we like and the parts we don’t, the moments when we star and the moments when we suck. God chooses all of it, because if we cannot find a way to embrace it all—the triumphs and the flops, the ecstasies and the tears—we live a stunted, unreal life. We can’t really know happiness. Deep joy comes only when we have welcomed our suffering and found that there is still a place for joy. Once you experience that, you are whole and free. You don’t need everything to be perfect to be happy. Nothing can ever threaten you in quite the same way again.
Someone Else is choosing you today, is choosing what your life will be. Some things have been selected that will agree with you, and some that won’t. Your task—the only real “choice” we have in the matter—is to welcome the whole thing, say thank you, be content.