This is analogy related to free will and sovereignty, and as such I wanted to include it in the context of my recent post, but as it is not directly from scripture I felt it could not be part of the main piece.
The Bible tells the story of how God is creating children for Himself. It describes the history, the process and the future fulfilment of how mankind will be perfectly conformed to His image, a work which was started at creation and is not yet complete. The interesting bit is how He is going to do this, and the fact that somehow, it involves a peculiar group of people called out to live in this truth ahead of time and to serve others by announcing it to the whole of creation.
But what can we learn about free will and sovereignty from this image?
Imagine you are planning to have a baby; perhaps you really are. There are certain things you know will happen: You know that your child will start life as an infant who you will dearly love and rejoice over, despite the fact that to begin with, they will do little but cry, feed and mess themselves. In practical terms, they will be useless, but not because they aren’t a perfect baby. They will be wonderfully and fearfully made as much as they are fragile, vulnerable and needy.
They will then reach the “terrible two’s”. They will kick and scream, push other kids, scribble on the wall paper and throw temper tantrums. You know they will do this, before they’re even born. It’s inevitable. They will sadden and frustrate you, and sometimes you may even wish you hadn’t bothered, but you will still love them. What is more, you will need to discipline them, and to teach them responsibility. But three things are simultaneously true when that child throws his food on the floor: firstly, it is the child’s fault – the food was in his hand and he willed it to end up on the floor. But secondly, it is within his immature nature, and he cannot do otherwise. There is no way he was going to not throw the food. You reprimand him, and yet no one says “I cannot understand what is wrong with my two year old – he threw his food on the floor!” That is what two year olds do.
And thirdly, you are responsible. He is your child. If he scribbles on the walls at a museum, or pushes another child at nursery, you are the one they call. You are the one who pays for the damage, whether or not the child says “sorry”. At home, you may make him clear away some of his own mess as part of the disciplinary or teaching process, but when it comes down to it – when it matters – you do it. You do not invite friends to dinner and as they squelch into the mashed banana on the sofa, say “sorry about that, it was my two year old and I see he hasn’t cleared it up yet. All I can suggest is that you bill him for the dry cleaning.”
This is not to say there aren’t also moments of joy during this growing up time. But the hope is that this troublesome childhood results in mature, wise adults who have learnt to behave through example and discipline, and who you can enjoy a different relationship with. A relationship characterised by respect for the person they have become, pride in all that you have achieved in them, and gratitude on their part for all the times they couldn’t understand why you did what you did. A relationship that is like friendship but better, because the parental bond remains as a testament to all you have been through together.
Sadly, human families rarely work out quite so perfectly. But God is perfect and His family will work out exactly as it was meant to from the start.