The Choice to Love or not to Love by Max Lucado
The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “In the Eye of the Storm,” published in 1991.
“WHY DO I WANT TO DO BAD?” my daughter asked me, unknowingly posing a question asked by many seekers of truth. “Why do I do the thing I hate? What is this ape that gibbers within?” Or, perhaps a more basic question is being asked. “If sin separates me from God, why doesn’t God separate me from sin? Why doesn’t he remove from me the option to sin?”
To answer that, let’s go to the beginning.
Let’s go to the Garden and see the seed that both blessed and cursed. Let’s see why God gave man . . . the choice.
Behind it all was a choice. A deliberate decision. An informed move. He didn’t have to do it. But he chose to. He knew the price. He saw the implications. He was aware of the consequences.
We don’t know when he decided to do it. We can’t know. Not just because we weren’t there. Because time was not there. When did not exist. Nor did tomorrow or yesterday or next time. For there was no time.
We don’t know when he thought about making the choice. But we do know that he made it. He didn’t have to do it. He chose to.
He chose to create.
“In the beginning God created . . .“ (Genesis 1:1)
With one decision, history began. Existence became measurable.
Out of nothing came light.
Out of light came day.
Then came sky . . . and earth.
And on this earth? A mighty hand went to work.
Canyons were carved. Oceans were dug. Mountains erupted out of flatlands. Stars were flung. A universe sparkled.
Our sun became just one of millions. Our galaxy became just one of thousands. Planets invisibly tethered to suns roared through space at breakneck speeds. Stars blazed with heat that could melt our planet in seconds.
The hand behind it was mighty. He is mighty.
And with this might, he created. As naturally as a bird sings and a fish swims, he created. Just as an artist can’t not paint and a runner can’t not run, he couldn’t not create. He was the Creator. Through and through, he was the Creator. A tireless dreamer and designer.
From the pallet of the Ageless Artist came inimitable splendors. Before there was a person to see it, his creation was pregnant with wonder. Flowers didn’t just grow; they blossomed. Chicks weren’t just born; they hatched. Salmons didn’t just swim; they leaped.
Mundaneness found no home in his universe.
He must have loved it. Creators relish creating. I’m sure his commands were delightful! “Hippo, you won’t walk . . . you’ll waddle!” “Hyena, a bark is too plain. Let me show you how to laugh!” “Look, raccoon, I’ve made you a mask!” “Come here, giraffe, let’s stretch that neck a bit.” And on and on he went. Giving the clouds their puff. Giving the oceans their blue. Giving the trees their sway. Giving the frogs their leap and croak. The mighty wed with the creative, and creation was born.
He was mighty. He was creative.
And he was love. Even greater than his might and deeper than his creativity was one all-consuming characteristic:
Water must be wet. A fire must be hot. You can’t take the wet out of water and still have water. You can’t take the heat out of fire and still have fire.
In the same way, you can’t take the love out of this One who lived before time and still have him exist. For he was . . . and is . . . Love.
Probe deep within him. Explore every corner. Search every angle. Love is all you find. Go to the beginning of every decision he has made and you’ll find it. Go to the end of every story he has told and you’ll see it.
No bitterness. No evil. No cruelty. Just love. Flawless love. Passionate love. Vast and pure love. He is love.
As a result, an elephant has a trunk with which to drink. A kitten has a mother from which to nurse. A bird has a nest in which to sleep. The same God who was mighty enough to carve out the canyon is tender enough to put hair on the legs of the Matterhorn Fly to keep it warm. The same force that provides symmetry to the planets guides the baby kangaroo to its mother’s pouch before the mother knows it is born.
And because of who he was, he did what he did.
He created a paradise. A sinless sanctuary. A haven before fear. A home before there was a human dweller. No time. No death. No hurt. A gift built by God for his ultimate creation. And when he was through, he knew “it was very good“(Genesis 1:31).
But it wasn’t enough.
His greatest work hadn’t been completed. One final masterpiece was needed before he would stop.
Look to the canyons to see the Creator’s splendor. Touch the flowers and see his delicacy. Listen to the thunder and hear his power. But gaze on this—–the zenith—–and witness all three . . . and more.
Imagine with me what may have taken place on that day.
He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground.
All of the Garden’s inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on petals and watched.
“You will love me, nature,” God said. “I made you that way. You will obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will be like me. This one will be able to choose.”
All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed something yet unseen. A seed. “It’s called ‘choice.’ The seed of choice.”
Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless form.
An angel spoke, “But what if he . . .”
“What if he chooses not to love?” the Creator finished.
“Come, I will show you.”
Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the
realm of tomorrow.
“There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the bitter.”
The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these. He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the kindness and marveled at the warmth.
“Heaven has never seen such beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation.”
“Ah, but you’ve only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter.”
A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and proclaimed, “What is it?”
The Creator spoke only one word: “Selfishness.”
The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering blindly in lonely labyrinths.
“This is the result of choice?” the angel asked.
“They will forget you?”
“They will reject you?”
“They will never come back?”
“Some will. Most won’t.”
“What will it take to make them listen?”
The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future, until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.
With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It stood alone, a stubborn ruler of a bald hill. The trunk was thick, and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill. And soon he would be hung on it.
He felt the wood rub against a back he did not yet wear.
“Will you go down there?” the angel asked.
“Is there no other way?”
“There is not.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn’t it be easier to not give the choice?”
“It would,” the Creator spoke slowly. “But to remove the choice is to remove the love.”
He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind.
Men clad in soldiers’ garb sat on the ground near the trio. They played games in the dirt and laughed.
Men clad in religion stood off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected God, they thought, by killing this false one.
Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked. Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her away. She wouldn’t leave. “I will stay,” she said softly. “I will stay.”
All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command.
“It must be done . . . ,“ he said, and withdrew.
But as he stepped back in time, he heard the cry that he would someday scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) He wrenched at tomorrow’s agony.
The angel spoke again. “It would be less painful . . .”
The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.” They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died for the creation before he had made him. God’s form bent over the sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A finger moved. And an eye opened.
But more incredible than the moving of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped.
Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since.
Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it:
“It looks like . . . it appears so much like . . . it is him!”
The angel wasn’t speaking of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside—–at the soul.
“It’s eternal!” gasped another.
Within the man, God had placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created earth’s mightiest. The Creator had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.
Now it’s our choice. (237-243)