We Choose Who We Let Walk Away and Who We Let Stay

During a particularly difficult semester in college, I went to see someone at Georgetown’s Counseling Center. After a few sessions, I decided I didn’t like the advice the counselor was giving me and so cancelled my last appointment. After I did, I got a short letter from the counselor, which said, “You can lead a horse to water, but…”

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. That – to drink, the horse has to choose.

As I was driving home the other day, it occurred to me that “you can lead a horse to water…” is a different, more secular, version of something someone had posted online recently:

God determines who walks into your life….
It’s up to you to decide who you let walk away,
who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.

It is an important thing to remember. I think of all of the people God has put in my path at different times in my life. Some I have let stay, and they have been real blessing. Others, like the Georgetown counselor, who I probably could have benefitted from, I pushed away. God put them in my path, but gave me the choice whether to welcome them or reject them.

I have to remember the words in a different way as well – a way that is actually harder for me. Just as God puts people in my path, God puts me in the path of others, people who could benefit from their encounter with me. Some of those people will welcome my presence. We will grow in relationship and learn from each other, and they will benefit from my presence in their lives.

Others, however, will push me away, and when it happens, it is a really hard thing for me to accept. I need to remind myself that the fact that I think I have something to contribute to their lives doesn’t take away the fact that it is their choice whether to let me do so. I can’t force my presence on them any more than one can force a horse to drink (or any more than the Georgetown counselor could have forced me to take his advice). And I remind myself that even Jesus let the rich young man (and others) walk away from him. He always let it be their choice whether to go or stay.

God determines who walks into our lives. It is our choice who we let stay and who we push away.

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We Get What We Want

I just finished reading Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, a book that has caused quite a stir among Evangelicals, since what he writes runs so counter to the beliefs of (at least large portions of) the Evangelical community. For some, the book is nothing less than a false gospel, a heretical piece of writing that will harm the souls of those taken in by it.

I loved the book. Although the chapters on heaven and hell had many interesting points in them, I think Bell really gets to the crux of the book in Chapter 4, which is titled: Does God Get what God Wants, which is not unrelated to the theme of my post of yesterday.

He talks about all of the things we read about God in the Bible – that God is loving, is all-powerful, is full of grace and mercy. We learn about God’s plan for salvation and read that, for God, all things are possible, and that all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of God. And then he asks a very simple question: does God get what he wants? Or, as he reframes the question:

Is history tragic? Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity in conscious punishment and torment, suffering infinitely for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth? Is our future uncertain, or will God take care of us?….Is God our friend, our provider, our protector, our father – or is God the kind of judge who may in the end declare that we deserve to spend forever separated from our Father?

Bell fully admits that we are free to choose to reject God. He writes, “Love demands freedom. It always has, and it always will. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.” Ultimately, however, hell is not something God inflicts on us, but something God allows us to choose if we want.

Thus, while we may not be sure of the answer to the question “Does God get what God wants?, the answer to the question “Do we get what we want?” is a “resounding, affirming, sure, and positive yes.”

I don’t doubt that there are many who don’t like Bell’s way of looking at things. Some seem to almost revel in the idea of a God who sends people to an eternity of torturous punishment. But that’s not the God of my experience, and obviuosly not the God of Bell’s experience either.