Written by: Mike Donehey
Written on: Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I was driving in my car a while back, windows down,
enjoying the breeze splashing on my face
when I heard a line something like this come through the stereo speakers,
“the choices that we make, make us who we are.”
And I started chuckling to myself, thinking,
“oh how the world has got it wrong. If only they knew the truth,”
But lo! When I looked down at the radio dial, I was faced with the
sad reality that I was in fact, listening to a local “Christian” station.
I didn’t really even know what to do.
Laugh? Cry? Get angry?

It was quite a conundrum.

And what made matters worse, is that when I started asking people
if they’d heard the song, and what they thought of it,
they would respond, “Oh yes!” Isn’t that beautiful?
And of course, my answer was far from harmonious.
“NO! No it is not beautiful!  It is completely undermining redemption!
It’s a direct assault on the gospel! No! No! No!”

And so I kept digging. I kept asking. I kept inquiring.

Come to find out, that song is not the beginning or the end of this ideology.
There is a myriad of songs, books, movies, sermons, and devotionals
all bearing the name “Christian” that are teaching this misleading ideal.
I just couldn’t believe it.
I mean, I know the church has her problems.
After all, she’s filled with sinners,
and so I’m never really that surprised by her infidelity,
but I couldn’t comprehend how so many people could be teaching this doctrine
from prominent places of power.
“Who I am is the sum of my choices?”
Are you kidding me??!! Come on people!!!
You can’t really believe that can you?
Your choices make you who you are? Really?
So you chose your hair color?
You chose your parents?
Your taste buds?
Your birthplace?
Natural talents?

I can’t think of a more arrogant statement than,
“I am the sum of my choices.”
Cause you know, the only people that are gonna say that are successful people.
You’re never gonna find somebody at a recovery program teaching this.
People who have seen the depths of their depravity know better.
And they know better than to forsake the grace of God.
But the rich and successful? Oh they can forget.
Because hey, if I’ve made great choices than that only helps my pride out,
and helps me look down on all the sinners that can’t get their act together like I did.
Pick yourself up. Do better for God!
Funny, because the message of the gospel is that God was better for you.
Funnier still, because you can’t even live for God until you learn how to live because of God.
If you think you can do anything without him you end up sounding quite self-righteous.
Like a pharisee.
Like the people that got Jesus fired up.

Now here’s the deal.
I get what people are trying to say.
I understand the intent.
They’re trying to help people understand that there are consequences to their choices.
And I’m not disagreeing with that.
Of course our choices have ramifications.
If I shoot somebody, I’m going to jail.
If I drink too much alcohol, I’ll get drunk.
If I believe the wrong doctrines, I turn into a pompous jerk.
Yes. Choices have repercussions, and they have a lot to do with where you end up.

But here’s the gospel: Where you end up is not who you are.

What you do is not who you are. If you are in Christ,
who you are is what has been done for you.
How else do you think God can call screw ups like us a “new creation?”
It’s because his choices for us make us who we are.
I am a child of God, and it’s not because I was good enough to be one,
it’s because He was good enough for me to be one.

Any Batman fans out there?
Do you remember the scene in Batman Begins when Batman is standing
by a window and Katie Holmes is looking at him and she asks him,
“Who are you?”
Do you remember what he says?
With that icy blue stare he looks at her, and in that absurd gravely voice he bellows,
“It’s not who I am, it’s what I do that defines me!”
So sad…and so wrong.
No Batman.
To quote Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine,
“not to undermine the consequence, but you are not what to do.”
You’re not.
You are what has been done for you.
At least, if you are in Christ you are.
And what’s truly beautiful about this is that it levels the playing field.
The successful and the pure are humbled out of their pride, because they realize
that it is Christ who has made them right before God, not their choices.
And it strengthens the failures and the weak, because no matter how many bad choices
they’ve made, no matter how many times they go back to their vices, they can believe the gospel
and get back up. The promiscuous girl can say, “my identity is not where I’ve been.”
The addict can put down his needle and say, “druggie is not my name.
I am a child of God who happens to relapse.”
In other words, we learn to live out of a new reality…out of our new name.
I don’t need to become holy. I need to act like who I am.
I need to be in practice who I already am in position.
I am a child of God in spite of myself.
I’m not struggling to be free, I am free to struggle.
Or to quote John Paul II,
“We are not made from the sum of our weakness…
we are the sum of the Father’s love for us.”

And so, having said all that,
I want to share the chorus and bridge of the song that I wrote in response.
It’s called “You are More,”
and I hope you like it.
But more than that, I pray you believe it.

“you are more than the choices that you’ve made
you are more than the sum of your past mistakes
you are more than the problems you create
you’ve been remade

cause this is not about what you’ve done
but what’s been done for you
this is not about where you’ve been
but where your brokenness brings you to
this is not about what you feel
but what He felt to forgive you
and what He felt to make you new.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…
…For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”