re-frame obligation into conscious choices


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When I started writing this article, my mind wandered off to my early twenties.  I loved antique shops.  I would spend hours touching the beautiful furniture and imagining the history and stories behind every piece.  I really could not afford to buy any of these beauties, but soon found my way to the back of the shops.  I found the unwanted, broken and ugly pieces, often disguised in layers and layers of horrid paint. I made arrangements… sometimes worked in the shop as a casual, just to earn the items I wanted and to get them transported to my home.

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Restoration is not a glamorous task, I certainly did not have all the tools and skills that would have made this task easy.  I often found myself alone somewhere in the shade of a tree, wearing gardening gloves and applying paint stripper.  I often became so involved with the work that the sting of paint stripper on my bare skin would shock me back to reality.

Through trial and error, I learned the art of restoration and ended up with beautiful pieces that gave me tremendous joy.

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I know now that God is also in the restoration business.  That He will go to the outskirts of life to find us.  Life and choices often leave us scarred and ugly, but He sees our potential.  He created us in the wombs of our mothers with our own unique abilities. He equipped us before we were born and gave each one of us our own unique thumb print.  If things went according to plan, I am sure we could all live authentic lives in Him.

But then He gave us choice… and the collection of wrong choices fills our lives with obligations.  We become ruined with layers of hurt, rejection and failure written all over us.  We feel ashamed and move to the side lines.

Obligation is defined as an act or course of actions to which a person is morally and legally bound; a duty or commitment.

God is clear about commitment:

But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ’no’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:34-37)

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I wrongly classified all the consequences of my wrong choices as commitments and kept myself so busy with all my obligations that I didn’t deal with real life issues.  No wonder I felt like a victim, overburdened and stressed.  I was doing a lot of things that stripped me of my ability to choose.  I was so far down the road that I didn’t allow myself to question things, all because I feared yet another wrong choice.  I was so burdened by the emotions that I felt, that I was paralyzed.  All my obligations were slowly suffocating me.

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I felt the sting of paint stripper in my heart when God revealed my resentment, anger and frustration to me.  My initial thoughts came as a shock, I didn’t want to seem rebellious, ungrateful or unhappy.  This made me continue on a road contaminated with all my wrong choices.

I think most of us are raised with preconceived notions of the choices we’re supposed to make.  We waste so much time making decisions based on someone else’s idea of our happiness – that will make you a good citizen or a good wife or daughter or actress.  Nobody says, ‘Just be happy – go be a cobbler or go live with the goats.’ (Sandra Bullock)

An important decision I made was to resist playing the blame game.  The day I realised that I am in charge of how I will approach problems in my life, that things will turn out better or worse because of me and nobody else, that was the day I knew I would be a happier and healthier person.  And that was the day I knew I could truly build a life that matters. (Steve Goodier)

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I became the richest woman on earth, the day I realised that I had choices – that God created me with the ability to choose and that I can choose well because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in me.

Choice: the act of choosing: the act of picking or deciding between two or more possibilities: more possibilities, more power to make a decision between a range of things that can be chosen.

God took me off the known path and as He applied the paint stripper, a process of intense pain, suffering and endurance started.  I had no idea what lay concealed in my life.  He challenged my belief system, all my assumptions about people and life in general.  He transformed my perspective, to rid me of the cancer in my life, enabling me to find joy and happiness, with a strong connection to the Holy Spirit.

He anointed me with His presence and showed me how to look at myself differently, and to have more compassion for myself.  He helped me to de-clutter my life and my mind to create space for Godly wisdom.  I felt tremendous fear in letting things go. I waited to see if certain people would love me even if they had no power over my life any longer.  I had to redefine my life through conscious choices.

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One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. (Stephen R. Covey)

Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences. (Robert Louis  Stevenson)

Once I was able to understand the freedom of making my own choices, the opinions of other people didn’t matter so much any more.  I became aware of my own personal values and I could set my own boundaries in place.  God’s work in me brought an independence that I had never experienced before.  I had to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to create space and time in my life to journal, to have silence and to enjoy the different phases of my life’s journey.

People would pay good money for restored antique items, but sometimes they would quibble about the price, not knowing how much effort had gone into the restoration process.  I think it is the same with us.  We often see people and we admire them for who they are, we look up to them for their wisdom and Godly insight, not knowing that they had to go through a brutal process of transformation.

Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward. (Soren Kierkegaard)

Today I choose life.  Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. (Kevin Aucoin)

You might have been hurt by someone, or by circumstances.  You might carry the scars of abuse and neglect, but you are never beyond God’s reach.  He sees you, He knows your name. Stand proud at the back of the shop, with layers and layers of consequences plastered onto you.  Your Maker is coming, and He will find you. His righteous Hand will touch you and He will restore you to your original form.

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