Four weeks into a re-exploration of the book of Genesis, I am still mulling over God’s conversation with Adam about his freedom in the garden.
This prototype man was free to eat from every tree – but one. God specifically commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of disobedience? “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
Complete freedom with a solitary prohibition and with it, a choice.
Choices are the stuff of which life is made. We live and die by the choices we make. Free to choose, but with every choice comes consequences. Forgiven or not, we still bear responsibility for the choice.
Human nature, our fallen nature, rebels against this arrangement. We want freedom without responsibility for what happens next. Adam explained his disobedience by blaming Eve, “the woman you put here with me,” he began.
We’re still blaming other people for our choices. In Washington, at this very moment, House Republicans are blaming Senate Democrats for their unwillingness to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling that required a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Democrats in turn are blaming Republicans for their refusal to support any bill that raises taxes in addition to cutting spending.
Closer to home, cheaters blame the one who caught them cheating. Employees who unleash expletive diatribes at horrible bosses blame the boss for firing them. The nightly news is a parade of people accused of killing a child, shooting a politician or dismembering a spouse whose lawyers insist their clients are not responsible because they “heard voices.”
Messy as it is, giving human beings freedom to choose (aka freewill) was God’s decision. A God capable of making choices – but not mistakes – created beings in his own image, capable of doing the same.
As the parent of teenagers, I am conscious of freewill as a wild card. We spend years making decisions for our children and training them, by precept and example, to make wise choices for themselves.
Somewhere in the teen years they begin to choose whether to abide by what we’ve taught or to go their own way.
Children can, like Adam, choose the very things we counsel them to avoid. The preacher’s kid can choose to date and marry an unbeliever. The home-schooled child raised in Sunday School can choose substance abuse. A prep school kid can choose the thug life and land in the penitentiary. It happens.
At some point, children become free agents. When they make a few disagreeable choices, it’s tempting to take back the reins. With the wisdom of years, we realize bad choices can have a long shelf life.
Yet, we cannot choose for our children. They must live their own lives. And we aren’t going to like every choice they make. It’s at this point that we parents must choose to entrust them to God and to develop a deeper prayer life.
God gave human beings freedom of choice knowing we sometimes would make destructive, even fatal choices. He loves us even when we screw-up royally, and He uses our failures as teachable moments. Experiencing the outcome of our choices, painful though it may be, is part of growing up emotionally and spiritually.
God help us to love our children in this same way and to entrust them to Him who is able to keep them from stumbling and to guide them safely home. Genesis, after all, is only the beginning of the story.