"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live... like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:1-10)
In the second chapter Rachel explores the "paralysis of adulting". Many of us know what it feels like to be spinning your wheels, but going nowhere. The paradox of choice is that it can lead to paralysis - because we're not sure what we really want or which risks are really worth taking. We try to keep our options open or try to do everything - but end up not accomplishing anything meaningful. Here's some helpful extracts to help the paralysed among us to rise, take up our beds and walk with the Lord Jesus!
Rachel rightly challenges the dominant story in our western culture, which treats life like a Make Your Own Adventure book. Instead, we need to find our place in God's story for the world:
“Western culture tells me that my life is an exciting journey to an as-yet-undecided-but-probably-awesome destination. But the picture of my journey in [Ephesians 2] is much more unnerving. It’s more like I’ve cut the brakes on my own car, and now I’m racing down hill towards a certain – and painful – collision with God’s righteous anger… If you’re a Christian, it is because God has reached down and intervened to stop the car crash… If you are following Christ, then, by God’s grace, you’ve already made the most important decision of your life. Compared to that one, the others are just details… We’re part of a story that is building to a climax where Jesus is glorified forever. Your existence is not one of aimless drifting – you’ve got a destination. Where you’ll be in 50 years’ time is uncertain. Where you’ll be in 500 years is not. This is not for maybe; this is for sure... In this sense, life can’t go wrong.”
Some of us struggle when we feel that we're not in control - but Rachel encourages us to make peace with the fact that the Lord Jesus is in control:
“Our culture says that if we just work hard enough or believe in ourselves enough, we can make what we want to happen, happen. But maybe you’ve learned the hard way that that’s simply not true. There are some things that are outside of our control. These verses remind us what kind of person is in control: it is the God who has “great love for us” (v.4), who is “rich in mercy” (v.4) and “grace” (v.7), all of which are shown mostly clearly and compellingly in his extraordinary “kindness to us in Christ Jesus”. He might not take you on quite the route that you would plan, but He has intervened to set you on course to the only destination worth heading to.
Celebrating these realities, which give direction and destination to our lives, can help us take decisions that involve a cost or uncertainty:
“Life in Christ frees us to take risks. The Christian answer to the question: ‘What if I do this thing and then it doesn’t work out or I don’t like it?’ is ‘Well, if you do, and then it doesn’t or you don’t, you’ll still be alive with Christ’. You’ll still have the thing that makes life now worth living – as well as the ticket to the only future destination worth heading for…. Life may not always go the way you want. Decisions may not always work out the way you hoped. And that’s ok. Because you know the destination, and you know the driver. It’s Christ and it’s Christ. And that’s worth getting excited about. Take the job; don’t take the job. Go on the date; don’t go on the date. Look for somewhere else to live; don’t look for somewhere else to live. But whatever else you do, do the only thing that can make you feel truly alive: do life with Christ”
She finishes the chapter with refreshing advice on how to make decisions:
“Thinking about ‘God’s plan for your life’ is guaranteed to give us a headache… It’s not that God’s holding the treasure map and we have to guess the rote to the X that marks the spot. More of than not, it’s only in hindsight that we can trace God’s hand as we look back over the the journey. The application of Ephesians 2:10 “do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” – is not to do a specific set of good works that we have to locate, but to just ‘do good works’ as they come into our path… If we're doing good works, it's impossible to be doing the 'wrong' ones. God has prepared good works for you to do in the next 50 years. There are the big ones – perhaps a spouse for you to cherish, children for you to raise, parents for you to care for, vulnerable people for you to help, friends for you to call into his kingdom. There are solutions for you to dream up, and dreams for you to implement. And God has prepared good works for you to do today. There are messes for you to tidy and meals for you to cook. There are church friends for you to encourage, and neighbours for you to pray for, and work to do diligently. Some good works will be easy; others will be costly.. But each one is prepared specifically for you by your Saviour. That is reason enough to get out of bed in the morning, on each and every morning the Lord gives you.”