A Return Journey

Where did I come from? Before I was conceived, where was I? Now that I am here, where am I going? After I died, where will I be? As human beings, “we are those who find ourselves between a birth we cannot remember and a death that we would rather forget”.[1]

Before my parents conceived me, I was not conscious of my existence. While I was not conscious of my existence, my lack of consciousness does not preclude that I existed before I was conceived.

 

Pre-Conception Existence

In Ephesians 1:4, Paul points out that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. To be chosen in Christ means we existed in some “form” before God laid the foundation of this world. While we were in that “form”, God chose us in Christ (cf. 1Pe 1:20). Although Scripture does not reveal what that “form” is, at the very least we existed in God’s mind, where He made a conscious choice to predestine us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ (1:5). Thus, we all existed in God before we were being conceived by our parents.

 

God Predetermined Our Human Existence

While our parents conceived us, it is God who sent us into this world through our parents. God chose our parents, our gender, our race, our socio-cultural and religious root, the time and location of birth (cf. Acts 17:25-27). Just as God sent his Son to be born of a woman, born under law when the time had fully come (cf. Gal 4:4), God also sent us into the world through our parent’s action when he thought that the time was right for us to be born. So, we transited from some “form” before the foundation of the world to our current human existence. Therefore, we did not exist by chance but by Divine predetermination.

 

God’s Purpose for Our Human Existence    

Why did God send us from our existence before the foundation of the world to exist in this world? Since God has predetermined our existence in this world, he must have a purpose. When we existed in God before the foundation of the world, we did not have the freedom of choice. We could not choose.

In Genesis 2:15-17, God gave our first parent, the proto-type of us, the choice between obedience or disobedience. God warned Adam that he would surely die if he chose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:17). By giving Adam the option with warning of the consequences, the freedom of choice becomes available for all of us.

Before Adam came into this world, he could not choose. When God created this world, God created a space within himself (cf. Act 17:28). In this space, God brought Adam into an earthly existence as a living soul by making him from the dust of the earth and breathed into him. When God did this, He put Adam in this space to exercise the freedom to choose between obedience or disobedience toward God. This is God’s purpose for sending us into the world.

 

The Choice to Love or Not to Love

Behind this choice of obedience and disobedience is the choice to love or not to love God. Before Adam’s disobedience, God showed his love for Adam by making a Garden for him (Gen 2:8-9), providing food for him (Gen 2:9, 16), giving him a vocation (Gen 2:15) and creating a life partner for him (Gen 2:18-25). God was visiting them in the Garden (cf. Gen 3:8). All these show the love of God toward Adam. In giving Adam the option between obedience and disobedience, God desires that Adam would choose obedience in response to his love.

After Adam chose disobedience, God did not take away the freedom of choice and he also did not stop loving us. God remains in love with the human race (cf. Psa 8). Out of his love, he sent his only Son not to condemn the human race for disobedience but that the human beings might be saved through his Son (Joh 3:16-17; cf. 1Jo 4:9-10). God desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1Ti 2:4). By sending his only Son as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1Jo 2:2), God showed his love for the world.

By showing his love, God is looking for those who would respond to his love by obeying his command to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ and to love one another (1Jo 3:23). While God has not taken away the freedom of choice, God knows that those who want to respond to his love need his help of finding him and believing in him.

The sin of Adam has tainted the whole human race, including the human’s freedom of choice. While we still have freedom of choice, our ability to choose is muddled by our futile thinking and our understanding being darkened (cf. Eph 4:17-18). Unless God shines his light into our heart and mind to enlighten us (Eph 5:8-10), we will choose according to “the futile ways inherited” from our forefathers (1Pe 1:14, 18). While we do not fully understand how some believed and other do not believe (2Co 2:15-17), there is no doubt that all who believed have received God’s light to enlighten their futile and darkened mind. Without this enlightening, we could not believe.

 

Finding God in All Things

Besides enlightening us, God also helps us to find him in order to believe his only Son. Since our thinking is muddled by futile and darkened understanding, we no longer seek God (cf. Rom 3:9-12). We have turned to other things such as gold, silver, status, knowledge, technology and everything in this creation, and made them our “gods”. Thus, God has to reach out to us so that we may find him.

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden (3:8). The LORD God called out to them, “Where are you?” (3:9) The LORD God called out, not because he did not know where they were, but to reach out to them even though they have sinned. Similarly, while we may not know how God reaches out to every human being ever exists, God certainly reached out to us so that we may find him and believed in his only Son.

If we pause and reflect on our journey from birth to the present, we will recognize that God was helping us to find him and to believe in him. Through all the events of our life, God was revealing himself to us. We may not initially recognize his reaching out to us through these events but when we encountered him just like God revealing his Son to Paul, we will begin to find a tread of his presence running through our lives from birth to the present. Like Paul, we will recognize that God has set us apart before we were born (cf. Gal 1:13-17).

 

A Return Journey

Since we have found God, who has been waiting for us to recognize him, we have returned to him. Although we have no recollection that we existed in God before we were conceived, we have returned to him, who has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Thus, from this perspective our journey back to God is completed.

From another perspective, our journey back to God is still incomplete. At this moment, we only know God in part and we speak to God in part. We will know him face to face either when Jesus comes back again or when we leave this world to return to his side (cf. 1Co 13:9-12). Thus, there are still days ahead for us.

 

God’s Glory and Our Holiness

These remaining days of our lives, how should we live as we journey back to God? When God sent us into this world through our parents, we brought nothing into this world. When we leave this world through the door of death, we cannot take anything out of the world (1Ti 6:7). When we leave this world through the return of Jesus Christ, then nothing is left to take because everything will be burned up (2Pe 3:10-13). Thus, naked we came and naked we leave (cf. Ecc 5:15).

Now, this is true if we are talking about the things of this world (cf. 1Jo 2:15-17). On the other hand, we do not leave this world empty handed if we have found the greatest gift, God himself. When we found God, who loved us and sent us through our parent into this world, and choose to love him more through our obedience, we will not leave this world empty handed. All that we choose to do for God to bring him greater glory and for greater holiness (sanctification) of our lives in order to live in greater harmony with him will be honoured by him (cf. 1Co 15:58; Mat 5:8; Heb 12:9).

Would you choose to live the remaining days of your life for God’s greater glory and for greater holiness of your lives? This would mean we no longer do what we think is good for ourselves but rather what God wants us to do. It means also that we choose to deny our own will and to take up our cross according to God’s will, and follow Jesus.

Practically, as far as in anything that we still have a choice and are not under prohibition, we should choose the things that help us to bring greater glory to God or to develop greater holiness in our lives. All earthly things are created as means to reach either one or both.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all earthly things. We must be prepared to keep those things that help us and remove those things that hinder us from bringing greater glory for God or from developing greater holiness in our lives. According to Ignatius of Loyola, “Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive” to bring greater glory to God or to develop greater holiness in our lives.

 

Summary

Where did I come from? I come from God through my parent. Where I am going? I am going back to God either as his son through his only Son or as his enemy. Since I am going back to God as his son, I choose to bring greater glory to God and to develop greater holiness in my life so at to live in greater harmony with him.

[1] Hebblethwaite, Margaret. 1987. Finding God in All Things: The Way of Saint Ignatius: Fount: Harpers Collins Publishers. She quoted Timothy Radcliffe (p19-20).

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