almost daily I read a story in the paper about the tough financial times facing Australian families – rising interest rates, rising fuel prices, the ongoing challenge to “make ends meet” – and then I see it, that phrase again, those two words that somehow go unexamined and yet which reveal so much about our modern Australian way of seeing the world: “no choice”.
I read it again just today on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/one-small-step-for-their-small-packages/2008/09/29/1222650989514.html). The story was about the federal government’s new direction on paid maternity leave and appeared under the title “Great leap forward seen more as a small step”. It was basically a human interest angle which presented the views of two new mums on the adequacy of the governments proposed 18 weeks’ paid materniy leave. Their reaction? Basically, disappointment. One woman, Alison Barnes, 35, an academic and mother of 11-month-old Madeleine said all women deserved 26 weeks “because it allows a genuine choice. You should not feel guilty about having to return to work too soon after your child’s birth because you have no choice.”
No choice… really? I hear people say this sort of thing all the time but how real is it? For example I wonder how Dr Barnes would finish this sentence: “I had to go back to work earlier than I wanted to, otherwise…” Unless her next words were “I/my baby/etc. would die/be killed” then she had a choice didn’t she? In fact even then, she would still have had a choice. But the reality is that what she really meant was “I had to go back to work earlier than I wanted to, otherwise… we would have been under greater financial pressure OR otherwise we would have had to re-finance our home loan OR otherwise we would have had to put off our holiday to Fiji…” and the list could go on.
You see we always have a choice. In Australia, no one is holding a gun to our heads. We have incredible freedoms. We’re just not willing to make choices that compromise our ability to “have it all” and so we say we have “no choice” to justify the decisions we have made.
Do you do this? I read somewhere once that we either allow the truth to shape our reality or we massage the truth to justify our decisions. Which is it for you?
I think Jesus is a great example of someone who was always aware of the choices available to him and yet always chose to do what was right in submission to his Father, God. Even when he knew that his choices were leading him to certain death, he still chose to go that way. And he made those choices for you and me. How easy it would have been for him to justify other choices – “they don’t deserve it”, “I’m innocent”, “they need me here”… but he didn’t. Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, chose our good over his own and for that we can be eternally grateful.
How should that effect the choices we make? Let me tell you about how one family in our church has responded to all that Jesus has done for them. What do you do when you realise that your precious rural hideaway (and the debt you’ve incurred to pay for it) is making it hard for you to love and serve your church family? Do you have a choice? Yes… but it’ll cost you. But one family was prepared to pay the price so they found a cheap rental in town, close to church, put their property on the market and have been taking every opportunity to serve that they can lay their hands on – hospitality, joining ministry teams, catching up with small group members, and the list goes on.
How many of us are making those sorts of choices for those sorts of reasons? I’m praying that more and more of us will understand our freedom in Christ Jesus as an opportunity to serve like he did, to make choices like he did so that we will mirror him to the world around us which has become enslaved to all sorts of idols as revealed in the conviction that in so many things they have “no choice”.