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The Gift And The Price

Take what you want, says God to man. Take it, and pay for it.  –Spanish proverb

I’ve found this proverb a useful antidote to two common illusions that I encounter in myself and in other people.

First, there’s the assumption that we don’t have real choices, that we can’t really take what we want, that we have to live in conformity with the society around us. I’ve had people tell me that farm life, full-time volunteering, a balance of mental and manual labor are lovely ideas but just not practical in the “real world” — despite the fact that they’re all real parts of my life. I’ve told myself that a life without gasoline or flattering lies just isn’t possible or practical. I think this is an excuse. Over and over the Bible calls us to choose how we will live and whom we will serve. Jesus didn’t live as anyone might have thought that a dutiful second-class subject of the Roman Empire had to live, and he told us that he came with the truth that would set us free — free to choose.

But the choice still carries a great price.The other prevalent illusion in this society, and in my own heart, is the idea that somewhere there is a way of life that will satisfy us completely, allow us to realize all our potentials and indulge all our desires and keep the good opinion of everyone. God never promised that.The merchant who bought the pearl of great price had to sell everything else he had.

The freedom to choose, and the need to pay, are true not only for the great choice of faithfulness to God, but for all the little choices, all the perplexing practical details of working out a faithful life. Shall we remain in a church that provides good fellowship but doesn’t see parts of the truth as we see it, or go seeking another community to hold us accountable to our vision? Shall we live in the city or the country? Stay tied to the grid or unplug? There may not always be one choice that’s clearly right for everyone. Perhaps not even one that’s clearly right for us. The important things is to choose with open eyes, not to feel like victims when we have to pay the price for what we’ve chosen, and to be willing to reconsider our choices and what we pay for them until “by turning, turning, we come round right.”

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