Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Understanding Free Will

The teacher assigns homework.  The child has the options of:

1) Doing said homework well and earning both a good grade and possible praise from teacher and parent.
2) Doing said homework indifferently and possibly eeking out a good grade or more likely garnering a lesser mark and some grumbling from the parents.
3) Blowing off the homework and getting growls from mom, notes from the teacher and additional work, a bad grade and a slip designating that the assignment is late. 
And there are all the variations inbetween...

The child knows all three basic consequences.  The child knows good from bad, right from wrong.
But there's this pesky thing, free will. 

It allows us to knowingly, freely choose the worst of all possible outcomes because we don't want to go about the hard business of studying and gaining knowledge and learning what has been presented. Choosing the best option requires of us that we use our gifts.

Sin works the same way. We can know God's will.  We can even know the consequences of failing to abide in His love.  Yet we chose freely and knowingly that which short circuits our best chances to grow and delve deeper into how it is God calls us to love.  It's easier to take the pill, to blow off the sacraments, to rage at the world or others for their misguided views than to educate or even better, pray for those with whom we have definitive and difficult relationships.  It's our free choice to do so, it's just we make lots and lots and lots....of stupid free choices. 

But God loves us enough to respect our freedom, the gift He has given us to not be robots.  Robot children would do their homework perfectly every time.  Real children sometimes decide to watch Batman, sneak downstairs to raid the second refrigerator of the leftover birthday cake and then announce at 10:30, they don't understand this assignment or hide that they didn't do it or that they did do it but lost it, or that they forgot to turn it in, or that they forgot about the assignment entirely or blew it off. 

God would not rail at this johny-come-lately for showing up last minute with a bit of homework to do, but God does not tire of our whiny free willing sinful selves.  He loves us for what we are and what we could be if we loved Him more. But he does have expectations, that we will use our gifts wisely, that we will do what we ought, that doing what we ought reveals our love, while doing what we want because we want it means we wind up with a lot of extra stress, mess and poor marks.

The sins we freely chose to commit, keep us from God, just as the child who has multiple missing assignment slips might keep themselves from going to their parents or to the teacher, out of fear and shame and a desire not to face the consequences of freely chosen actions.  But ultimately, the hiding doesn't work, nothing is hidden, and only we are deceived in this process, deceived by the belief we could hide anything at all.   The only way the grades and homework situation turn around, is the child  admits there is a problem and begins the hard process of doing things differently.  The only way we access grace is to begin to submit ourselves to scrutiny and recognize our own innately sinful nature, and seek forgiveness. Start over.  Freely choose differently than we have, and do it again and again and again and again, to slowly grow ourselves in the habit of conforming to God's will out of free will.

With that being said, I had to ask of myself, "Did you do your homework?" And the only honest answer is I really need to go in and ask for some extra credit assignments to boost my grade.


Maria McClure said...


Krispie said...

No I didn't always do my homework. No I didn't always listen to the little voice inside. As you get older it is easier to either abide by that voice or ignore it. That does not mean it is not still there.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!