If, like me, you’re a child of the 80’s, you may remember the literary phenomenon that was “choose your own adventure.” If not, here’s an introduction:
“You and your trusty dog, Marzipan, have travelled to the planet Zorg. Your spaceship has landed in a large crater. To the north is a field filled with a strange green gas. To the south is a cave, marked with a large ‘Keep Off’ sign. To the east is a castle guarded by giant monkeys. If you want to investigate the source of the gas, turn to page 34. If you would like to take a closer look at the castle, turn to page 132. To approach the cave, turn to page 22…”
Remember, this book is different from other books. You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story. There are dangers, decisions and dire consequences. YOU must use all of your numerous talents and enormous intelligence. The wrong decision could end in disaster—even death. But it will be YOUR death, because YOU chose it.
Choose your own adventure. Write your own ending. For years, these books raced to the top of the bestseller charts – and you can see the appeal. It’s not just monkey men and castles that need reversing. Dumped by your boyfriend? Don’t panic. In this world you can skip back to p.32 and leave him first.
But what about the real world? Where do our stories fit? Glen and I have been mulling this over and here’s a few of our thoughts…
Is life like an ordinary book where each page unalterably follows the last? Or – is it a Choose Your Own Adventure – where we’re the drivers and there are millions of choices? It’s a debate that happens inside and outside the church. Both Christians and non-Christians ask: are we free to choose our destiny or is it already set in place?
For some of us, even “choose your own adventure” isn’t enough. After all, there’s a limited number of choices and the consequences are set in stone. What I want is a “Write your own adventure.” Start with a blank page and write the whole shebang: introduction, middle and end. My life, my way. Surely that’s the shape of freedom?
Jesus disagrees. As “God’s Son” (John 8), He’s the very definition of a free man. But here’s what He says about Himself:
“I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28)
Choose your own adventure? Not for Jesus. His life is living out a story written by Dad. And yet – He doesn’t think that makes Him a slave. For Jesus, the real slavery is choice. The choice to put ourselves first – to sin.
“Whoever sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
When we sin (and we all do), we prove that we’re actually enslaved to unhealthy desires. We’re looking for love and peace and meaning in all the wrong places and as we do, we become even more stuck. Like spiders scrabbling in the bathtub, we need someone from outside to reach down and lift us out. Or, as Jesus goes on to say;
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
The gospel means we don’t need to write our own endings or choose our own adventures.We don’t need to make up for our mistakes, we don’t need to make good on our potential and we don’t need to make something of our lives. Why? Because the story is already written and the ending guaranteed. Jesus offers us His freedom by offering us His life. His perfect obedience is ours and His “happily ever after” is ours too.
Freedom is not choosing my own story. It’s about sharing in His. The ending has already been written and it cannot be changed – but this is precisely why it’s such great news. With His story ringing in my ears, I can step into the world with nothing to prove and nothing to lose. Of course I’ll make some terrible choices but these don’t define me. Jesus defines me. Paradoxically, that is my freedom.
Because my life is determined by His story, it does not hang in the balance. The ending that matters has already been written. Now I can forget about choosing my own adventure. Now, in freedom, I can live out His.