I was working in the hot South Carolina sun at a used car dealership. Despite my high level of education and experience, I was repairing upholstery for a sweet Armenian couple who owned a European car lot. As I labored on an exquisitely damaged seat, I heard a car pull up nearby with the radio blasting. A girl was softly singing along. I smiled at her, and she began to sing louder, and louder, until she was shouting the lyrics that she was feeling.
It’s amazing how soft gestures of love can empower us to be raw and untamed in our authenticity. Like that seat, we are exquisitely damaged beings. Our free will allows us to determine what to do with how that damage shapes us – and what amazing, deep free will it is! Do we even realize how much free will we have?
We may be burdened with life circumstances, biology, and emotions which make us feel like we are forced to go certain ways. That’s understandable. But eventually, we can shape ourselves into what we want to be. And there’s no end to that, because we are always changing. This world isn’t as real as we are, and we can become something greater than this world.
Our suffering guides us through deeper realizations and epiphany than privilege would allow. Still, we can use our suffering as an excuse to turn into decaying, withered, angry golems of human resemblance. With this bitterness we brew, we can turn on others in hate – whether intentionally or unintentionally. That’s what free will is. We can choose to be horrible and to separate from the light. While this is the path to destruction, we are given the ability to choose it.
But suffering can give us so much more. It can give us the ability to love harder and stronger. To become unyielding in our convictions and experiences of life. We can shape ourselves into something better and brighter than we ever could have if free will never existed.