People are not subject to the world around them. They are free to make choices that order the steps of their lives. In some nations, people believe that nature affords them no recourse, but to be at its mercy. The belief that nature is more powerful than human beings prevents people from devising creative ideas to curtail the forces of nature. In the West, we harness the power of nature for our use, but in many parts of the East the powers of nature harness the people.
How Genesis makes the difference
It is actually the biblical view that God placed man on the earth to have dominion over the earth that makes the difference between the East and the West. However, if the ramifications of this doctrine are not taught, the benefits to life become lost. Animals are at the mercy of their environment. They are subject to dominion. In contrast, people can change their environment by their choices. No permission is needed to think differently. There may be opposition to practicing a new way of thinking, but progress seldom occurs without opposition. Those willing to move forward despite opposition often become those who lead the way for the more timid.
Ordering our steps
This idea extends beyond man’s dominion over nature, but man’s ability to order his own steps. Instead of life happening to us, we happen to life. Sure some things come our way that we cannot foresee or control and land squarely on our lap. But such things are few and far between in the big picture. We cannot live in such a way that everything becomes our responsibility or our baggage to maintain. Many things will vie to be our problems, but only a handful ought to become our own. If a person is making a series of bad choices, the problems will pile up, and these problems will be that person’s responsibility to clean up. But many of us have problems clinging to us that are not our own. Some other helpless soul dumped their load upon our shoulders, and we thought it loving to carry it for them. Many times we feel we had no choice but to receive the load. We need to evaluate our choices and see what truly belongs to us, what truly is an act of love, and what is not our burden to bear.
The power to make our own choices
Many people become hindered to do what God has called them to do, because they are so busy doing all the good things others impressed upon them to do. The “oughts” of life are often burdensome imposters of the will of God. Everyone has something they think people ought to be doing, but if we are doing these things to fulfill expectations, instead of choosing these things in our lives freely, we will suffer the responsibility as a burden. It can be the right thing for the wrong reason.
For instance, if our neighbor is always complaining that we do not cut our grass often enough we may begin to cut the grass more often because our neighbor “is making us”, or to alleviate ourselves from his complaining. Some will stop cutting grass because the chore has become too great due to the pressure of the neighbor. Instead we can choose to cut the grass because we want a nice manicured lawn and intend to steward our home well. This removes the burden of “ought” imposed upon us and still keeps our grass cut. Many things can be inserted into this example. We choose what we do freely. No one makes us. Even a slave can be free when he chooses to serve his master.
Jesus may have been touching on this when he speaks of walking two miles with someone who makes you walk one. You are choosing to give where someone is trying to take. There are no victims in the Kingdom.
Stewarding our own life
In keeping with the outworking of being powerful-free-people we can make choices to steward our time, money, and energy. We can let time tell us “we haven’t enough” or we can manage our time and apportion it according to our needs and desires. Any portion of time that is not dictated by us as to how it will be used is left to be consumed by whatever comes our way. But when we set it aside and govern our choices accordingly we can use it for our purpose. This aides us in setting appointments, cleaning house, reading, studying, praying, helping a friend, or you fill in the blank. We set aside these things and order our choices around them. Emergencies come up, but life does not happen to us. We put it where it needs to go on purpose. When we haven’t built a boundary around our time, it becomes a vortex for all that comes its way. If we do not govern our time, it will govern us.
When we do not make our own choices we are like a person standing in an elevator while others select their destinations taking us along for the ride. The elevator gets called to various floors and maybe even gets waylaid for maintenance work. All the activity of the elevator becomes something that happens to the person not making his own choices as to his destination. “I had to” becomes the language we use to illustrate the activities of the day, when a simple designated choice would have enabled the person to use the elevator for his purposes instead of being a victim of its trajectory.
We often perceive going with the flow as easier than setting our own course. But when the flow becomes an ocean, the current can carry an undertow. If we want to ride the waves instead of swim against the current, we must make our path firm. We have to direct all areas of our lives. We tell our money what to do. We tell our time what we will do with it. We tell our car where it will go, and we direct ourselves to our intended destination for our intended duration. It is alright to micromanage our own lives; we just cannot micromanage the lives of others. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and in Proverbs we read that a man without self-control is like a city without walls. Like the city, he is easily plundered.
Taking responsibly for our choices
When we do not take the reins of our own life, many others will come along and do our job for their benefit. Our employers will take more of our time than we desire, “taking away” our ability to maintain other important areas of our life. Our children will “take” our time instead of us giving them time of our own free will and desire to connect with them. A friend will ask something of us and we “have to” comply instead of choosing to love our friend by giving our time freely or loving the person by saying “no.” Pretty soon, we are pulled in many directions trying to fulfill all the “oughts” and “have to’s” until we can’t fulfill any of them even half-way. Then we get angry at what everyone else is doing to us. The only one that can manage me is me. The only one I can get angry at for not managing me is me.
If we aren’t careful self-pity and guilt will rob of us of our opportunity to begin to manage ourselves. The moment of clarity gets convoluted and we believe the lie that change is too difficult. We let our obligations fall all around us with the same idea that it is not our fault. If people would stop demanding so much from us maybe life would be better, but since that will never happen, we must endure. These are all lies of the enemy that keep us bound. Truth is liberating. It frees us from the things that keep us in bondage. The truth is that we are free. We can make our own choices, and we can live on purpose.