When it’s time to sit down for Thanksgiving, we don’t really go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Our tradition is more of a time of private reflection, rather than a platform to verbalize our gratitude. This year, I’m so thankful it’s private, because if I shared what I’m thankful for aloud, it would probably feel similar to a Miss Universe contestant saying she wished for world peas, except that I don’t have vaseline on my teeth.
‘Cause what I’m really thankful for is free will. The pessimists are thinking,"What?- the freedom Adam exercised that brought about our downfall?” Well... yeah... but it’s an unfortunate first-introduction to free will, and it’s given us a misshapen view of it. I mean, I have always thought of free will as the freedom to choose what I want (Mmm, where are my manners? Want a piece of my knowledge-of-good-and-evil-fruit, anyone?)
But that is looking at free will backwards. It’s looking at the worst example of the worst consequence of the misuse of free will in the history of the world (not an exaggeration.) I mean, since when do we ever need a “boost” to have the nerve to do what we want? We don’t need free will in our corner to enable us to act in ways of self-preservation and self-interest — that comes quite natural to the entire animal kingdom.
We should think of free will as the ability to choose against our own nature at certain times. To intentionally choose against our emotions or our rational, cognitive processes when needed. Adam did not exercise free will when he chose to eat the forbidden fruit; he just did what he wanted, quite automatically. If he had exercised free will, he would have chosen to leave his desire unfulfilled in deference to God.
Thinking of free will in this way blows my mind. It’s like free will is an executive function that only comes into play with intent. Exercising free will as I’ve just described is an expression of love, and it just so happens that we have the best example of the best outcome of the actual use of free will in the history of world. (This is not an exaggeration, either.) You know what I'm talking about... If God had not taken human form, and Jesus had not exercised his free will, there would be no cross to symbolize salvation. But He did. The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the agony of choosing between self-preservation and self-sacrifice. It took free will for Jesus to choose against staying alive. It took blood, sweat, and tears. His struggle was to engage the free will to choose against his human nature. To walk toward harm intentionally. Because he would rather take our place than see us harmed. Because he loves us.
So this year, I'm thankful that where Adam failed, Jesus prevailed. Thank you, God.