Who We Are & Who We Can Be Pt. 3

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor Frankl

Andrew McCutchen is a 26 year-old center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  His abilities as a fielder and a batter have earned him a contract worth more than $50 million over the next 6 years.

Yesterday he tweeted a picture of the double-wide trailer that he was raised in.  Along with the picture were the words, “came a long way since livin here… Thank you God for all youve done n my life #amen”.

McCutchen didn’t get to pick the family that he’d be born into.
He didn’t get to determine where that family would live.
There was no choice about the home he’d be raised in.

He only got to pick the response that he would have to those humble circumstances.

This is the 3rd part of a blog series examining how we choose to respond to our failings, and how these responses help determine the trajectory of our lives.

In Part 1  we covered the human desire to escape from accountability by denying responsibility.  We looked at how these behaviors not only reveal who we are, they also demonstrate a desire to maintain this identity by refusing to change.

We desire to sin.
We sin.
We want to keep sinning.

In part 2 we looked into how God defeats our selfish desires by insisting that we stop measuring ourselves against argument, rationale, and other people; instead he demands that we examine ourselves against his standard of truth.  Doing so is the first step away from “who we are”, and into “who we can be.”

“Who we are” is what sin has done to humanity.
“Who we can be” is who God created us to be.

He created us to be without sin.

God had created Adam and Eve to live without sin.  In their desire “to be like God”, to “know” good and evil, they actively disobeyed the God who had already made good and evil clear to them.  At the heart of their sin was the desire to determine what was good or evil on their own.

This is demonstrated in their “choosing” to eat the fruit; they decided for themselves that eating the fruit was good- even though God had already declared that action evil.  Their sin was as much foolishness as it was open rebellion; they tried to enjoy the goodness of God apart from obedience to him.

This rebellious and foolish desire for self-determination passed from Adam and Eve to their sons with disastrous consequences.

The brothers, Cain and Abel, both worshiped the God who had confronted and restored their parents.  Genesis chapter 4 tells us the story of their own struggle with self-determination and choosing between good and evil:

“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  – Verses 3-6

We try to determine why God looked favorably on Abel’s offering while disregarding Cain’s, but to do this we have to guess at what was “wrong” with Cain’s offering.

We have no record of what God had asked them for.
We have no record of why Cain’s produce wasn’t pleasing.

We can only speculate that Abel’s firstborn animal and fat portion was something that pleased God in a way that Cain’s offering didn’t.

It’s as if the author leaves out the back story,

What were the rules of their primitive worship?

and forensic information we desire,

What kind of produce did Cain bring?

to force our focus onto something else.

The focus of the story is on Cain’s response to God’s disregard of both him and his offering. By not including the details we want, the author keeps it from being merely a story about Cain, but allows us to identify with him; finding ourselves in the story… if we are willing.

Who hasn’t experienced unexplained rejection and hardship?
Who hasn’t become angry as a result?

This is when God appeared to confront Cain about his response to God’s decision regarding the sacrifices.  It begins an examination of a human heart that doesn’t get what it wants.

We don’t get to pick what happens to us, we only get to choose our response.

According to the text, until the murder of his brother, Cain had not yet sinned.  Anger was a reasonable response to the confusion he had experienced.  This is when God says, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

God tells Cain that this is his opportunity to master sin.  Sin wants to dominate him, but he has a choice about how he will handle his anger.

In conjunction with this, God is laying out a path for Cain to be restored; even though his sacrifice was disregarded- “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”

In the presence of loving God, Cain is given a choice between
“who he is” and “who he can be.”

Cain allows sin to have its way with him.  He lures his brother into a field and then murders him.

Instead of measuring himself against God’s standard of truth, he continues to measure himself against his brother.  His solution to the failure of “measurement” is to remove his brother from the equation.

The heart of Cain’s sin is that he would not accept God’s judgement about his offering.  God preferred something and, when confronted, Cain was unwilling to change to give it to him.

Like his parents, Cain wanted to determine what was right and what was wrong.

He chose “who he was”, so that he could stay “who he wanted to be.”

Cain spent the rest of his life “away from the presence of the Lord” as a “marked man”.  He was an outsider limited by his failure to submit to the authority of God.

Wicked choices set a terrible trajectory for his life.

Andrew McCutchen didn’t get to pick the family that he’d be born into.  He didn’t get to determine where that family would live.  There was no choice about the home he’d be raised in.

He only got to pick the response that he would have to those humble circumstances.

He could’ve chosen to be a victim.
He could’ve chosen a life of crime.
He could’ve chosen to self-medicate.

Instead he chose to work.

He chose to develop what he had been given.
He chose to take mastery over the condition he found himself in.

In success he chose to demonstrate humility and gratefulness to the God who regarded him and blessed his sacrifice.

Righteous choices set righteous trajectories for his life.

Continue to Part 4

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