Have you ever felt caught, without escape? No way to possibly win? The power of your choice is something I have learned over years and yet in moments, all at once. One more memorable lesson came on a hot summer day years ago…
The day soured suddenly, like spoiled milk.
First came the bee sting; then disobedient children added to the chaos. In the midst of all that, I realized all was not well with my husband, either.
Disappointment, frustration, harsh words, and fear all balled up into one, a gaping wound ripped open in the midst of a beautiful day.
All thoughts of fun or enjoyment vanished into thin air. And the children were watching. And I felt stuck.
I didn’t want to go to the beach anymore. I didn’t want to spend another second within a five-foot radius of him.
Instead, I wanted to admit defeat, to go home and sob in my bed, alone. I wanted to rage against him and flail my fists and ask, “How could you??”
But the children were there, conspicuously quiet in their seats, and everyone was waiting for me. We could either go to the beach and hope for redemption or we could suffer in silence for hours on the drive home.
I felt powerless to move forward, but I couldn’t leave and give up either. A rock and a hard place. And the children were waiting in the backseats.
Silent tears fell, and an inward scream of, “It’s not fair!” But it wasn’t fair for them, the innocents in the backseat, either. And I knew he was sorry. And I knew I should be sorry, too.
Recognizing the Power of Your Choice
In the moment I completely identify with Paul, who writes in Romans 7:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:21-24 (NIV)
A war wages within, but I cannot seem to call a truce. What is Paul’s solution?
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:25 (NIV)
Then a prayer, a pleading for mercy and forgiveness, a desperate cry for joy and peace rather than chaos.
Slowly, the tears dry up as peace floods my being. He’s with us, our Comforter and Redeemer.
I recognize the power of a choice, a choice to trust my God can mend what’s been broken and redeem a day turned ugly.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
I’m ready now.
The walk to the beach is long, sandy dunes, four-year-olds floundering in flip flops, and heavy bags filled with towels and clothing. I’m tempted to go back to the struggle, but I don’t.
Instead I focus on the prize, the joy that awaits on the other end, the fun I know we’ll have if we can just get there without falling to pieces. I’m focused on the freedom and victory promised to all of us in Romans 8!
The Victory Following the Struggle – Romans 8
The sun and the sand, the waves and the seagull calls, the laughter of children happy to be at peace, happy to run and dig and splash – they were all worth it, the sacrifice of giving in when I had the “right” to fight, the obedience to trust my Father could bring joy in the midst of pain.
He is powerful when we are powerless.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
You see, friend, we serve a God who doesn’t leave us to struggle alone. In fact, He gave His own Son willingly that we might experience eternal life and freedom from sin.
Jesus’ death is what gives you the power of your choice. Infused by the Spirit, we have everything we need (2 Peter 1:3-4) to make a right choice, whether we feel like we do or not! That’s the truth as proclaimed by God’s Word for His people.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 (NIV)
I pray my family won’t remember the ugly of that day, that 15 minutes that threatened to ruin it all.
I pray we’ll remember instead the wild beauty of the dunes, the slippery feel of the clay on the lake bottom, and the giant sandcastle that was bigger than any we’d ever built before. Father God, let us remember the laughter of buckets of water raining over unsuspecting heads, the rocks we collected, and the look between just the two of us as we recognize our many blessings. Let us remember the power of a choice to trust in His strength rather than our own.
It was ugly.
But then… then it was beautiful.
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