by Linda Rex
The thought came to mind this afternoon that it is easy for any of us to imagine that everything in this world ought to revolve around our wishes. I am reminded of the line from the movie “Princess Bride” which was repeated more than once by the hero of the story. It was an expression of his love for the beautiful princess. When he was incognito, she recognized him by his use of the phrase, “As you wish.”
There is a freedom that comes with love—a freedom that may put the relationship itself at risk. This is the freedom to not love the other, if one wishes. It is the freedom to think, act and relate in ways that are unique to oneself rather than in harmony with the other party. It is the freedom that comes with personhood—with being self-aware, being created with a human, made in God’s image, identity.
Some of the saddest relationships I have seen are those in which this phrase is used improperly. One or the other of the parties involved is so controlling and/or insecure that the other is never allowed to have a differing opinion, a separate will, or an individual choice. Or the person has willingly given up that freedom, thinking that is what having a relationship requires. But this is not a healthy relationship—because there is a person in this relationship whose personhood is being violated.
We learn from God what it means to be persons, each with a separate unique identity but made to live in harmonious relationships with God and others. Jesus, as God taking on human flesh in the incarnation, showed us that he had an individual identity which reflected God in which he was free to choose, to love and not love. And at the same time he never did anything apart from or opposed to the will of his Father. In the Spirit, he lived in harmony with and in obedience to the will of God. He loved freely and fully.
Jesus taught us that God is Father, Son and Spirit—each unique, equal and eternally one. How is it that three unique, equal individuals can at the same time be one? Here the church fathers coined the term perichoresis or ‘making room for one another.’ There is the kind of freedom in love where each party makes room for the other to be fully who she or he is. It is God’s nature to be fully free in love in this way. Each says to the other, in essence, “As you wish” and yet no one’s personhood is ever violated.
And because of Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, God has included us in that divine relationship of love. In sending his Spirit to us as humans, he has made a way for us to share in the perichoretic union and communion in which he lives. He’s willingly risked it all to give each of us the freedom to love or not love, as we wish.
But at the same time, God calls us into a new way of being, a new way of loving and living. He calls us into a relationship with himself in which we are to say to him, “As you wish.” And he says to us, “As you wish.”
This is why, when all is said and done, the choice to not love, to not be in relationship with God, to reject all that God has done for us in Christ to give us new life and forgiveness, is ours to freely make—and God will honor that choice. He will work as long as he is able with all that is in him to bring us to a change of mind and heart, but the choice is ultimately ours. And he will honor it, even though it may break his heart.
So, as once again I am frustrated by the demands of a thoughtless person, I say in my soul, “Father, as you wish,” and in the Spirit of that submission say to this person with grace, “As you wish.” I am mindful of all the times I have made thoughtless, unreasonable demands and so, with sincerity, I freely choose to forgive and move on. Perhaps another time love will require a different answer, but for now, this is enough.
Heavenly Father, thank you for saying to each of us freely in love, “As you wish,” and for calling us into a relationship with you in which you provide for us in Christ by the Spirit the heart and will to say to you, “As you wish.” Grant us the grace to live freely in love with one another and with you in this way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’” Luke 22:41–42 NASB