Here's the thing about choices: they never go away. We all make them - everyday. Some are big; those decisions that we make at a crossroads in life with potential to lead us in two different [not necessarily opposite] directions. Some are mundane: the choice to get out of bed, get dressed, go to work or school. Some are both significant and mundane. For example, the choice to be diligent in your education will have a significant impact on your future and future options, although the day-to-day of choosing to study and learn might feel insignificant in the moment.
Our choices belong to us, and we need to own them. I make many decisions for my children, but I also make it very clear that when they have a choice, it is theirs. Even in the decisions that are made on their behalf, they have choices; embrace that circumstance with a good attitude or wallow in a sea of emotions based on their feelings about that decision.
We are free to think. We are free to feel. We are free to love. These are basic fundamental rights, given to us not by human authority. They cannot be taken from us, only relinquished. We can let others think for us. We can allow our hearts to become calloused. We can reject love or refuse to give it. But these choices are ours.
Just as choices belong to individuals, so do the consequences that follow.
We can shift our decision-making habits...and in doing so, carve out a new direction for our lives. However, the decisions of our past cannot be erased. They are there. They can be both forgotten and forgiven, but they are forever engraved in our history.
It is sobering, really, to consider this - and could be overwhelming if we consider it too much. I don't advise it. But I do suggest that we take inventory of the current choices we are making. What choices have I made in the past? Where did those decisions lead me; what were the consequences? What consequences might my current decisions have?
It is a painful thing to watch people you love choose over and over what they know, not only from education, but from intimate experience as well, hurts them and hurts the people they truly love the most. We cannot make our past choices go away; and we cannot erase the consequence they bring. But we are not enslaved by choice. Choice is freedom. And while many decisions may be made for us - and sometimes our current choices are limited as a result of our past decisions, we are always free to determine for ourselves how we will respond in our hearts, actions, words, - our lives.
That's the other thing about choice. We can't make a choice for someone else. We can make a decision or a selection for them. We can force them to action in various ways, but ultimately, choice belongs to an individual. We can make someone do right, but we can't make them want to. We can educate, nurture, or convince another person to make a good decision - but we can't force someone to think, feel, listen [not to be confused with 'hear'], or care.
Oftentimes as a parent, friend, family-member I find myself wanting to make that choice for someone. Many times, it is easy to see the path that certain choices lead to; sometimes because I've walked there myself before, and/or witnessed others venture down those roads. It doesn't take a rocket scientist - just open eyes, unclouded by self-focus and a lust for pleasure at any cost. And, there have been moments in my own life, when I was unable to foresee or simply content to ignore the consequence of poor choices that I made. It requires wisdom [and often courage] to know when we need to speak up and try to reason with our loved ones to recognize the value of their choices. I often evaluate my personal relationships by who is willing to say hard things to me - and love me still; I know those are the people who truly care. And there are also times when discretion will lead us to quietly watch, pray, and ache, knowing that the choice is simply not ours to make. We cannot take responsibility for the decisions that someone else makes, but we must for our own.
In these moments of painfully observing destructive choices that others make, our own choice is often whether to speak up or be silent. Neither one is a conclusively 'right' answer in every situation; and it may be a significant or casual resolve. But that choice, like every choice we make, is permanent in that moment. Time doesn't have a history brush, or a backspace, or a button to rewind or pause.
People come and go, time slips past us. But the choices we make about how we engage the world around us are written forever in history. Though few may be remembered, they never go away. Perhaps that consideration alone makes them significant to some degree. I think our most significant choice is one that many of us overlook or ignore: what do we do with Jesus? Because, like it or not, that decision effects everything. Even if you are not a Christian, so much of our culture and even our world has been shaped by the teachings of [or the rejection of] the Bible, and how we respond to the Gospel does impact us. As believers, how we respond to the Gospel in our daily life is significant too.
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well
fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith
without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
- James 2:12-26
Without a change of action, without a commitment to God-honoring choices, our spiritual words are hollow and our faith is worth nothing.
I think Dr. Del Tackett posed a poignant question: "Do you believe that what you believe is really real?" It is applicable to any of us, Christian or not. Our worldview and spiritual beliefs will effect our choices and likewise, our choices reflect what we really believe about others, the world around us, ourselves and the very purpose and worth of our existence.
"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for
yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your
forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in
whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve
the LORD." - Joshua 24:15