At the beginning of each chapter in Luis Rodriguez’s book, “Always Running,” there is a quote that rests beneath the chapter number. These quotes are scattered in origin, from well-known names to obscure personal friends and influences of Rodriguez. The book is a memoir/autobiography of sorts, chronicling the story of Rodriguez, a Mexican-American immigrant in Southern California, as he moves from an impoverished childhood into the gang-life of Los Angeles in the 1960’s and 70’s.
One of the chapter quotes near the middle of the book caught my attention and stuck with me. It is a quote from one of Rodriguez’s personal acquaintances:
There are choices you have to make not just once, but every time they come up.
I found this to be one of the wisest things I’d ever read.
For all the talk of change and redemption in the Christian life, there is a less-often spoken of underbelly. That dark secret has to with how we are to react when the things we think we’ve been saved from don’t seem intimidated by the message that we aren’t the same as we used to be. Old temptations and proclivities from our “former” life are notorious for keeping in contact with us, like a house guest who has been told to leave but just keeps lurking around the refrigerator like a stubborn vulture.
There is more to becoming a mature Christian than “declaring” that we are different, or “rebuking” everything in sight. There is the slow, methodical and daily work of making choices. The very fact that we have to make those choices everyday is evidence of our predicament. Surrendering our life to God is not like entering the witness protection program. We are not suddenly whisked away from all the danger and mayhem that surrounded us “once upon a time.” To the contrary, most of us find that our daily routines are the same on Monday, no matter what we’ve experienced, surrendered or been “saved from” on Sunday.
Perhaps I’m treading dangerous waters, but maybe what’s “new” about Christians isn’t just our new identity in the family of God. Maybe we aren’t different in the way we might think. Maybe what it actually means to be “delivered” is that we find that God has implanted the strength and wisdom to say “no” to those things which plagued us before and “yes” to the things that lead us toward joy. And if that is the case, maybe there’s some room for error and learning and progressive growth, even in the life of someone who has been “eternally changed.”
Some decisions aren’t going to last, but that’s not to say that they aren’t meant to be decided over and over again. It is, in fact, a kind of definition of love to choose the object of affection time and time again, not merely making a single decision once and then riding out the wave. And if God the Father really values relationship with His people as highly as the Bible seems to suggest, then it is not a curse to have to choose the ways and wisdom of God everyday, it is, in reality, a blessing and an act of providential grace. The idea is to grow into a pattern of new life by the power of God working inside of us. For God has never offered short-cuts; just ask Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul and even Jesus. Short-cuts never lead to real love or relationship, only time and commitment can do that.