The Christian perspective that we are in this world to make choices was not one I grew up with. But I tried very hard anyway to make the right decisions, or what seemed like the right decisions to me at the time. Sometimes I was successful in outward choices, the ones that replaced a bad behavior for a good one or, at least, a more socially acceptable one. For example, in my thirties I “chose” to be more loving, but I’m not sure anyone felt the difference—as hard as I tried! And later I “chose” to be more outgoing, more involved in groups. And there, too, I wouldn’t win any awards. …What I’m trying to say, in short, is that we’re all born within the confines of genes and DNA. And that can be very restrictive, particularly when it comes to our own ability to make choices.
Then Hannah Whitall Smith introduced me to the wonder of sanctifying grace. Instead of being something that helps us make better choices, this grace is something that happens when we yield and let the Lord do the choosing. He can indeed overcome our natural fears and obsessions and temperaments. His Holy Spirit working with our spirit actually does purify our motives and improve the direction of our lives—when we allow it. And, often to our surprise, what the Lord chooses to change may not be on our list of choices at all!
After Smith encountered this sanctifying role that God’s grace plays, she always emphasized that it was “in no sense an attainment,” something she did herself, but rather a “discovery” (The Unselfishness of God 162). As she concluded: “I had not become a better woman than I was before, but I had found out that Christ was a better Saviour than I had thought He was. I was not one bit more able to conquer my temptations than I had been in the past, but I had discovered that He was able and willing to conquer them for me.” (see Driving into the Dawn, chapter 11)