by Ernest O’Neill
Happiness is wanting what you have – not having what you want ! But most of us think happiness is “having what you want”. As little babies, we grabbed our teddy bears whenever we wanted them. And – as the years passed – we felt this was our human right – to make things the way we wanted them. Many of us had temporary breaks in this behavior – when we were in the army or in a business where we had to do what someone else wanted. But we have always looked forward to “getting back to the basics” of what we want out of life.
Strangely enough, it hasn’t worked out as we thought. Somehow we don’t feel as free as we used to. Doing what we wanted when we wanted seems to have led us into behavioral ruts – eating ruts, drinking ruts, television ruts, job ruts – habits of society and culture that make us more like robots than free human-beings.
Many of us still say “I wish I were really free to do what I want !” But our lack of freedom seems as internal as external ! G.K Chesterton said that we humans think of happiness as a combination of excitement and peace; in the same way we often yearn after a freedom that combines freedom and direction.
Your Life was Planned
This is exactly what the Maker of the world planned for us. There’s a startling verse in the Bible – Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” At first glance we twentieth century people are repelled at any suggestion that our Creator has planned our lives ahead, yet we are often very glad when a tour company plans a visit to a new country for us. We say we can follow the tour or strike out on our own – but that’s exactly what Jesus said about our freedom to reject God’s plan for our lives – “How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not !” (Matthew 23:37)
In fact, God has made us exactly right for the work to be done, but we have this crazy notion that freedom is “doing your own thing” whether it’s related to the overall plan for the universe or not ! The result is that we end up lost and dissatisfied with our lives – feeling we’re specks of nothing that achieve little. The truth is, of course, the exact opposite.
Another Person Inside You
Christmas is the heart of our misunderstanding. We get it right when we see that God’s Son, Jesus, became a human like us. We get it wrong when we think he rose from the dead, ceased to be a man, and went back up to being God. He never stopped being a man (God as well, but at the same time a real human being) – even at the last judgment in Matthew 25:31, he is called the “Son of man”. God didn’t just “visit” us poor humans – he became us – permanently – even while he continues to be God. That’s why Jesus is called in Colossians 1:15 “the first-born of all creation” and why all things (according to Romans 8:28-29) work together to conform us to the image of Jesus – so that he will be the first-born of people like you and me who can be called his brothers and sisters.
Actually, Jesus is the great human being – all of us were simply created inside him as part of his body. He is the one who knows how to develop this world in order – according to his Father’s plan – but he himself is so diverse and magnificent that you are needed to express a part of his character and ability that no one else can. He has always planned and wanted to live in you and do his work here (John 17:23), but he can only will – if you will with him !!
Like any baby inside his mother’s body, you can kick him to death from the inside (he has borne the pain of that sin for years), but until you die he will continue to work things together in your life to try to get you to “let Him live” through you! He is in you now – it’s his Spirit that gives you direction at times. But he will never force your will – he will let you even crucify him before he’ll force your hand, but if you once begin to let him do through you the works he has prepared beforehand, you’ll at last experience that combination for freedom and direction that is perfect liberty.