Often when I tell my faith story or give my testimony, I use phrases like, “When I returned to God…” or “When I came back to God…” or even, “When God found me.” That’s the way I’ve understood my story: I was estranged from God for twenty years, and then I slowly came back to him. Recently, though, I’ve begun to realize that while my understanding of that process isn’t wrong, necessarily, it’s also not the whole story.
The whole story is encapsulated in this one simple verse from John:
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (John 15:16)
Sometimes I forget that God does the choosing; I forget that he chose me as his beloved child even before I took my first wailing breath on this earth.
I forget that the door into his love and grace was open from the get-go, a standing, open invitation to me – to all of us.
Remember the story of the prodigal son? We typically pay a lot of attention to the son who returns in that story. We relate to the son’s need to seek forgiveness; we see ourselves in his act of returning to his father and his home.
But think about the father in that story for a moment. Sure, he comes out to greet his son and to welcome him back after his long hiatus. But the truth is, the door to the father’s house was always open; all those years, the invitation still stood. The father greeted his lost son with open arms, but that son had long been chosen as beloved by him; that fact never changed.
I tend to give myself a fair amount of credit for turning back to God after a twenty-year hiatus. If I’m not careful, I can easily slip into the misguided belief that I chose God. But as I mentioned earlier, that view is a subtle misrepresentation of the story.
The fact is, God does the choosing; each one of us is already chosen, right from the start. That invitation into grace, into the God-with-us life, is waiting for us on the day we are born. Our role is to say “yes.”