On March 22, 1994, my mother was murdered. It began as a typical Tuesday. I went to my 4th-grade class at Nevitt Forest Elementary, and after school, I stayed outside with the YMCA program. When we got home, I played video games in my room with a childhood friend. My stepfather came in the front door, I turned off my game, my friend ran out the front door, I ran through the house, I saw my mother after she was shot in the head, I ran next door, and the next few hours became a bustle of friends, relatives, neighbors, police, and spectators.

My mother had bought me a Leonardo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stuffed doll. His blue eye mask kept falling off, so my mother stitched it to his head to keep it on. The stitches have held well; my son, Christian, still plays with it almost 25 years later. As a 10-year-old child, I held that TMNT doll while standing in our driveway when I was told that my mother was dead. A policeman took me back into the house so that I could pack some clothes. The next question is where I would go?

My mother worked in housekeeping at Anmed. I don't remember her exact schedule, but I know that it involved weekend hours. I spent those weekends with my babysitter. I remember when my mother would come pick me up I would sometimes hide in the closet. Other times I would hide under the kitchen table. It wasn't out of any fear that I did that. I thought it was funny. I loved my mother, and I also loved my babysitter.

The day my mother died, I willingly went to my babysitter's house with my TMNT doll and suitcase of clothes. No one forced me, bribed me, coerced me, or threatened me. I followed them to their car, sat in the seat, and road to their house. I stayed there the next 11 years until July 2005, when I married my high school sweetheart, Rachael.

So, on March 22, 1994, I voluntarily, willingly, freely, (and any other similar descriptor) chose to go where I did...

A few years later I saw a copy of my mother's will. I'll summarize a paragraph that said something along these lines: "In the event of my (Judy Walker) untimely death, I hereby declare that my friend and my son's babysitter, the Wilbanks family, receive full custody of my son and care for him."

Welp, there it was in black and white. I had heard others talk about it, but now I saw it with my own eyes. Before the event ever even happened, it had been decreed that out of all the available options, it was already determined I would go with my babysitter. My mother had already made a choice. My babysitter had already made a choice. It was a legal document I had never seen, and probably as a child wouldn't have even understood. It didn't make me angry. It revealed a choice in the past that in time I chose for myself.

Does that document answer every question I have? No. Are there pieces of the puzzle that I still am ignorant about? Yes. Are there parts of the story that I may die still not knowing? Probably. Did my mother's will make me a robot that made a fake choice that day in my driveway? No. Did that document change the love I had for family, biological family, babysitter, or anyone else? No. Did that prior decree mean that I packed my suitcase against my will and went with my babysitter against my will? No.

Those black words printed on white paper meant that before my little brain could have even comprehended all the pieces of the puzzle, there was someone who loved me, was thinking of me and had a good plan for me in the event that evil happened.

So, which is it? Who chose who? Did my mother and babysitter make a real choice or did I make a real choice?
Yes.

Though our personal experience must yield to the Bible, and not the Bible conform to our own experience, perhaps you can see where I'm going. Christian, believer, child of God, one day you made a real choice. You were born again. You repented. You believed in Christ. And as time passed, you eventually came across some lines in, not a last will and testament but a New Testament, that made your eyes get a little wide. You came across: elect, predestination, foreknown, called, chosen, before the foundation of the world, etc. You know that you love God, and that you chose Christ, and that you are pursuing him. But, it almost sounds like before you loved God, he loved you. Before you chose Christ, he chose you. Before you were pursuing God, he was pursuing you.

Born-again, blood-washed, redeemed, chosen, adopted child of God, these theological words shouldn't scare you, or frighten you, or alarm you, or deter you, or anger you, or perplex you, or confuse you, or disturb you, or upset you. It should bring you comfort and peace and security. It should cause overflowing love and gratitude and praise. It should prompt you to sit back, tilt your head, gaze up, and be lost in amazement and wonder.

As a helpless 10-year-old boy, I had no possible idea all that was behind my free, willing, and real choice to move that TMNT doll and suitcase of clothes from Phyllis Dr. to Hwy 24 on March 22, 1994. When I read that document a few years later, it only assured me that it wasn't random chance based on me. It was a foreknown plan made by my mother for my good.

Likewise, as a helpless 17-year-old teenager, I had no possible idea all that was behind my free, willing, and real choice to walk in the backyard one night in Spring of 2001, fall on my knees in tears, and cry "Lord, I'm sorry. Please forgive me." As I read God's word today, it only assures me that it wasn't random chance based on me. It was a foreknown plan made by God for my good and his glory.

Over the next couple of weeks, this topic will come up in our adult Sunday School as we go through 2 Timothy (I hope you will join us Sundays at 10:00 at Gethsemane). I've thought for a while how I would handle the upcoming passage. Would I skim through it? Would I lightly go over it? Would I 'not spend much time on it?' But, why would I be ashamed of the very words that were written for my comfort and edification?

Before my mother died, she had a plan in place. Out of all the options she chose the babysitter option. She didn't have to do anything, but she did. She could have left me to fend for myself, but she didn't. And in time my choice followed. I'm not embarrassed by those words. It's those words that reveal her love for me.

Before my Savior died, he had a plan in place. Out of all the sinners he could have saved he saved me. He didn't have to do anything, but he did. He could have left me to fend for myself, but he didn't. And in time my choice followed. I'm not embarrassed by those words. It's those words that reveal his love for me.

"Above all else, let us firmly set this truth before us: to desire a knowledge of predestination beyond what God’s word provides is no less mad than to choose to walk over insurmountable rocks or to see in the darkness… On the other hand there are others who, wishing to remedy [intellectual curiosity], do their best to see that all memory of predestination is practically erased… Hence, in order to preserve the right balance, we must return to the word of God, which is the proper rule for attaining assured knowledge."
~An old dead guy

"God hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:"
~2 Timothy 1:9-10