You might be aware there’s this whole debate centered on the tension between God’s sovereignty and our free will…it’s called Calvinism vs. Arminianism, and it’s been around for, oh, five-hundred plus years. I’ve been learning more about it recently, and it’s pretty entertaining and frustrating and even scary.
Recently, this predestination/free will discussion has been surging through the realm of dating, marriage, missions, careers, and more. I’ve had those conversations with friends, and I’ve seen them circled around the internet in various posts such as this one (which I don’t particularly agree with, but I’ll come back to that later).
People are all bent out of shape about it. And I’ll agree it’s more than a little troubling. If predestination is true, must we pray, read the Bible, or really exert any sort of energy at all in life? And if free will is true, does that mean God only desires our salvation and couldn’t care less about the choices we make on Earth? Seems like a lose-lose situation.
So here’s my thing. What if they’re both true?
Let’s start with this: God is sovereign. There’s no doubt about it if you believe He’s perfect, holy, just, righteous, the Creator and sustainer of the universe, and the living God. And because He’s sovereign, He must have a plan for your life. (For all intents and purposes, we’re just discussing the Christian walk right now, not the path to salvation). Meanwhile, keep in mind that free will is a gift. Before someone gives you a gift, you still exist. And without the gift of free will, we’d still exist. We’d exist as little Christian robots forced to walk down a particular Path that God laid out for us and love Him with no feeling or decision. But that wouldn’t be much of a life. However, in His grace and love, He chose to gift us free will—the ability to walk off the Path.
But the Path still exists. That’s the part I think most people either forget or choose not to believe—that God in His sovereignty has a plan and direction for your life, even if you choose to ignore it. And the fact that this Path exists on the sidelines is what gives free will its beauty… We don’t just have the free will to make whatever human-minded decisions we want in life—we have the free will to make the decisions God wants. The free will to step back onto the Path.
I’m most overwhelmed by and in awe of God’s gift of free will when I relinquish it back to Him. When I find myself saying, “Thank you for letting me step off the Path if I want to, but I’d much rather stay on it.” One day in heaven, we’ll all place every good and perfect gift that comes from the Father back down at His feet. We’ll give Him everything He’s given us (because it’s all we have), and we can do the same here on Earth with the gift of free will.
“I thought she was going to talk about soulmates and Robert Frost,” you’re thinking. Don’t worry, I am. Soulmates come into play when we consider the possibility of “the one” versus marrying anyone. When I was first introduced to the dating talks and purity books back in junior high, Christians were full-throttle on the “the one” kick. Now the cool trend is that “God gives you the freedom to marry whoever you want.” Pretty sweet, right?
But it doesn’t settle with me that I have to pick one or the other. Since both make sense, I have to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Let me just say, I don’t believe in “the one.” I don’t believe God will only bless your marriage if it’s with one specific person, and I don’t think there’s only one person out there who can make you happy (not that I think there’s anyone who can “make you happy”). However, I do think if you were forced to walk on your Path, there would be one person for you (assuming marriage was on your Path to begin with). But with the gift of free will, you have the option to forgo that person and pick someone off the Path. It’s not a sin. God allows you to do it.
But I wonder if it’s what He truly wants for you. Is that man or woman the best He has for you if he or she is not on your Path?
I tend to think I ride somewhere on the service road most of the time. Every decision I make each day is not necessarily on “my Path.” I don’t pray about what kind of Starbucks to order. I don’t ask God which exit I should take to drive home. In these scenarios, I exert my free will. And sometimes I use my free will even more when I stray far far from the highway and take old country roads, going days without seeking His heart and His will for me.
But most of the time I’d rather stay close enough to the highway that I can jump on at a moment’s notice—moments when I confess to God, “I don’t want whatever I want. I want what You want.” I know I could say yes to marrying a man off my Path, and everything would be ok. God wouldn’t hate me. He’d still guide me when I seek Him and listen to my prayers. But when it comes to marriage, I hope I one day have the courage to tell God I want someone on His Path over someone I could choose down a side street, though it may be hard to do.
That’s the reason it’s the road less traveled. It’s not easy to use your free will to choose predestination. It’s unnatural. That sentence may not even make sense to you. But I believe it’s the ultimate action of drawing close to God.
And it adds meaning to the words of Robert Frost. We have two valid options of how to live out our Christian lives here on Earth. If we want to exercise our own will, we’re free to. And I mean truly free, as we can rest and hope in total salvation. But I believe if we give up our freedoms, bind our wandering hearts to His, and walk down the Path God’s laid for us, we will look back at the end and say it’s made all the difference.