I always had to play Lucy.
"Nooooooo, Em!!!" I would protest. "Why can't I be Susan? She's the pretty one..."
Well that just wasn't good enough for me. The Pevensies were only grown up for, like, the last three minutes of the movie! But as I was the younger sister and "confrontation avoidance" was my middle name, I resigned myself to always being the chubby buck-toothed one.
Fast-forward roughly 16 years. I met with my pastor last week. We were discussing big decisions and how to weigh two good options when you're not sure that God is "telling" you one thing over another. It's taken me about five days to begin to unpack and really let sink in what he said:
"If He isn't making one thing abundantly clear to you over the other, then this may be an instance in which He's given you the gift of a choice."
He said it with such a smile on his face, delighting in the very fact that it's possible, this gift of a choice. I've struggled to rejoice in it or see it as a gift. Too often I am paralyzed with indecision, wishing that someone else would clearly tell me what to do, or assure me beyond any doubt that one course is right and the other is wrong. That's the "easy" way, the "painless" way, the way in which I am not responsible for the consequences. Furthermore, if I choose wrongly here, I'm going to completely screw up the rest of my life. It'll all be plan B, second-best; I'll always be the chubby, buck-toothed Christian instead of the pretty one.
It suddenly and completely flooded over me yesterday as I was walking to the Tube, having a dialogue in my head rationalizing each option in turn. Neither option is clearly wrong or lesser, so far as I can judge. For a month I've been asking for signs, for assurances, for clear audible instructions; it finally came upon me in a delightful, peace-giving way that God may be doing something so very generous and parental in not giving me those things. Perhaps He is extending both options to me and saying, "Choose. I know My plans for you, but I want you to learn to choose without constant hand-holding. I will be with you on either path; I will bless either effort; I will use either one to make you more like Christ."
We crave signs or super-Christian justifications for every decision ("God told me xyz...") but sometimes all we get is the gift of grey. A gift that we want to refuse because it's not the black and white that we asked for. But it is in fact the better gift because it forces us to make decisions independent of the crutches of fear or others' approval, and to learn by experience that God is generous and patient and delighted by us. While there are instances in which He must correct open disobedience, I think that if we make the best decision we can, motivated by a desire to honor Him, we won't be relegated to "plan B," to always getting second-best, to always being the chubby buck-toothed Christian. There is no plan B; it is only, always plan A. Only, always best.
So often life is binary when we don't want it to be -- 1 or 0, black or white -- and not binary when we desperately wish it was. But if we're going to really believe in a God who gives, we need to be willing to step outside that safe framework. What is the very nature of a gift? When something is given as a gift, the giver doesn't tell you what to do with it. You're free to take it and decide how to use it. I truly believe that my God knows every hair on my head and has charted the entire course of my life, from conception into eternity, so I can't make a decision He has no control over or is unprepared for. But -- while I still don't entirely understand it -- I must also believe that He wants me to learn to exercise my decision-making abilities; to learn how to gather good counsel and weigh options; and ultimately, to kick off the training wheels, entrust my decisions to Him and thereby learn that He loves me, whether I "fail" or "succeed" or make a seeming mistake and have to retrace my steps. No decision I can make is capable of separating me from the love of Christ.
And anyway, Em was right. Awkward Lucy did grow up to be beautiful.