Do we appreciate the gift of freedom that God has given us?
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, we see that God did not force himself or his will on her, the person he desired to be the mother of his son. We may tend to take her decision for granted, but it was not automatic. However holy and righteous Mary may have been, it was still within her power to decline the role God desired for her. He gave her freedom to reject his invitation, but she chose to say yes. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
How precious is the gift of freedom which God gives to each of us! He preserves it even in the midst of his most important act after creation – his incarnation – the intention to become one of his created in order to overcome evil and save the world from its pattern of acting outside his desire and plan.
We honor and revere Mary for her decision of faithfulness and obedience to God’s desire. As we read Luke, we may tend to gloss over all of the real and practical complications, second guessing, and judgments Mary must have endured in saying yes to God’s messenger. Even Joseph intended to divorce her until God spoke to him in a dream.
Without this freedom to choose, love, faithfulness and obedience have no meaning. They cannot be tested. Their integrity is suspect. A coerced love is no love at all. Freedom is a precondition to love. It’s the way God set things up, and Mary illustrates it perfectly in agreeing to be part of something that had never happened before in human history. Even Jesus had the freedom to choose in the agony of the garden. He prayed that the cup of sacrifice, torture and death he was facing be taken from him, but then he submitted, “Yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Like Mary and Jesus, God has given us the freedom to make choices. Several years ago I was offered a promotion in my work that would have required our family to move. Everything in my work experience was calling out to me to accept this apparent advance in my career, but my wife and I discerned that it was not God’s will for us. We will never know what might have happened had I accepted the new position, but we do know what has happened – an apparent initial sacrifice was transformed into a cup overflowing with a multitude of blessings over many years for our Christian family of five children that has now evolved into four additional Christian families and thirteen grandchildren.
How will we use this freedom God gives us? Will it reflect love and faithfulness to God and the people he puts in our lives along with the blessings that follow, or will it reflect the epitaph that “I did it my way” and the “success” that follows in the eyes of the world?