‘I wish you would make your mind up. What do you really want?” This question was asked of a petulant toddler who went from one thing to another, who could never be satisfied, who refused to settle on anything. Every parent recognises the scenario. It was imprinted on my mind because I was that petulant toddler, and my father the frustrated parent. I remember it well, because in my child’s mind this incident triggered an awareness that in life we must make choices and that the choices we make determine our relationships to others. It is only too easy to go through life like leaves blown in the wind, never settling to the fundamental choices that determine our relationships to God and those around us.
In its account of King Solomon’s dream, the Book of Kings underlines the importance of our fundamental choices. On his succession as king, Solomon was asked to name what he wanted from God. It was a penetrating question. In naming the wants that dominate our thoughts we reveal where our heart truly lies. Our instinctive response to the question “what do you want?” reveals what matters to us most.
Solomon was not drawn to the superficiality of success and power. Instead, he asked that he might share in the wisdom of God, that he might understand himself and the people entrusted to him as God understood them. “Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?”
The complexity of life inevitably leads to the clash of many wants, both our own and those of the people with whom we live and work. How are we to resolve these tensions? Solomon prayed for discernment, the wisdom that comes from God. In a life of faith, a life whose overwhelming choice is for Christ and his kingdom, discernment will always involve prayer. In prayer we bring our lives before God, laying before him the choices that we face. In the light of his presence and guided by his Spirit, we patiently discern what is according to his will. Jesus emphasised the importance of prayerful discernment in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. Both parables emphasise that discernment must precede any choice. We must first understand where our treasure lies before we can sell everything to purchase the field in which our treasure is hidden. In prayer we begin to understand that Christ alone sustains all that we are and long for. His promise is the treasure outshines the glamour of the passing moment.
Renewed by his living presence, we ourselves are the field in which this treasure lies hidden. We need look no further for the pearl of great price. Christ himself is that pearl, enriching the poverty of our lives with the glory of his presence.
Paul understood faith as a fundamental choice for Christ. When we truly choose Christ, everything follows according to his love. “We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those he has called according to his purpose. Those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”
To believe is to choose. To choose is to answer the question “what do you really want?”