Back when I was pregnant with Boy the Third, I ran into an acquaintance and her three young children. Watching her juggle library books, diaper bag, and kids, I commented, “I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage when this baby is born.” I said this partly because I never know what to say to people, and partly because I really was wondering how on earth I would manage three kids. She laughed rather ruefully and returned, “Some days, you just have to keep reminding yourself: ‘I chose this.’”
The result of this seemingly unremarkable exchange was one of those classic moments in which politeness dictates that an even façade is maintained even though one’s mental process is at almost complete odds with one’s facial expression and verbal output.
Here: Mental process: “What? No! I didn’t choose this! Not in a million years would I choose this. But, uh, here I am. So I guess I did choose this? Well, I suppose I did. But not really. Wait, what?” Facial expression: Smile and look pleasant. Verbal output: “[Insert incomprehensible but empathetic murmur here].” Move on quickly before mental process finds audible outlet.
In our choice-driven world where self is queen and personal autonomy is her ruling mantra, a woman’s choice to have a large family might make sense to some people. Then they could fall back on the old, “Well, I could never do that/I would never choose that, but it’s ok for you.” If they’re not of the sort to yell at you for ruining the environment with too many children, they might even have a sort of admiration for a woman who chooses to have more children than the “average” family.
But what do you do with a woman who doesn’t really choose to have one or three or ten children, but simply accepts them as God gives them? That’s a bit harder for people to understand. In fact, it’s almost impossible for people to understand. Even if that person is (more or less) you, as my confusion in this conversation makes clear.
Rereading John 15:15 is what recalled this exchange to mind: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
Ah. Yes. A CSPP theme verse, perhaps? My life is not found in the sum of my choices. My life is hidden in the Savior who chose me. Being chosen, rather than choosing, is yet another mortification of my self—particularly since it’s so darn obvious, not only from Scripture, but from the mess I daily make of things, that I was not chosen to bear this lasting fruit because of any merit, worthiness, inclination, or even adequacy on my part.
No, I cannot console or rally myself by asserting that “I chose this.” Hear this, Prideful Self: You did not choose this; you were chosen. And you were not chosen because you were special. These daily tasks, these menial repetitions that you so begrudgingly perform—you grumble that these chores are not worthy of you, but the truth is that you are not worthy of them. Turn your hand gratefully to the care of the least of these, and marvel at the mystery of being chosen in spite of yourself.