Today we celebrate our United States holiday celebrating our independence on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. As we celebrate our independence, “freedom” is very important to us.
People take freedom to mean we can do anything we want (most people do acknowledge one limit to our freedom, that we cannot harm another person through our actions). God does give us freedom to do whatever we want. However, that does not mean we should do whatever we want. The best way we can exercise our freedom is to choose to do good. (For more on freedom, see Gaudium et Spes, a document from the Second Vatican Council that discusses authentic freedom in several places.)
When someone is successful in earthly endeavors, sometimes they describe themselves as “self-made”, taking all the credit for what they have become for themselves. We must strive to do our best but to think we have done it all ourselves is to fail to realize the gifts that God has given us. There lies the sin of “pride“.
There are people today who say you can become whatever you want. Our hard work is important. God wants to work hard. However, we cannot become something we are not meant to be. In terms of career choices, I am not been to be a rocket scientist or a banker. This doesn’t mean one can’t change careers. Remember, I was an engineer before I was ordained a priest. I no longer work as an engineer but it is still part of who I am as a person.
I am white American male. I can’t change this. Maybe there is something I could do to color my skin but inside my heritage would still be white (that doesn’t make any better or less than a person of a different color, all are children of God).
I am an American. My family has been in America for multiple generations. I can choose to move to another country and change my citizenship but being American would still be part of my heritage.
I am a male. This is the way I was conceived by God. It is part of the identity that God gave me when He breathed life into me (Genesis 2:7).
I titled this article, “I am Not My Own Potter.” In biological terms, life begins when we are conceived in our mother’s womb from the joining of her egg cell with a sperm cell from our father. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
God is the potter, we are the clay. We find this in scripture:
Isaiah 64:7 – “Yet, Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand.“
Sirach 33:13 – “Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, So are people in the hands of their Maker, to be dealt with as he decides.“
(cf. Jeremiah 18:1-12)
We are free to choose to try to do whatever we want but we find true joy and lasting happiness when we discern who God has called us to be and choose to be that.