Sunday, June 12, 2016
A MOMENT’S CHOICE,
A LIFETIME’S REGRET
My eye was caught by a headline that appeared yesterday on the MSN homepage. The article was written by Tobias Salinger of the New York Daily News. You perhaps have followed the story more than I, but the article relates to the rape conviction and sentencing of Brock Turner, a Stanford University student and fraternity member. The prosecutors had sought a six year prison sentence, the judge invoked a sentence of six months in county jail, and the man’s mother wrote a four page letter to the judge begging that no jail time be granted, with the father offering his concurring opinion. The web address for the article is included at the end of this blog, but I would like to comment on some issues the article contains.
The mother thought the student would become a target in jail and his live forever ruined. His father told the judge that the conviction was “’a steep price for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.’” His mother wrote at length about the impact on her once happy family, now in despair, depression, and the young man now filled with despair. She lamented, “’His dreams have been shattered by this. No NCAA Championships. No Stanford degree, no swimming in the Olympics (and I honestly know he would have made a future team), no medical school, no becoming an Orthopedic surgeon.’” The mother’s letter is included in the article, and she recounts all her son’s positive and good attributes, focuses much on the impact this has had on her son, herself and her family, and refers to the ongoing shame of registering as a sex offender.
Salinger, thank God, rightly points out that the, “letter makes no mention of the trauma endured by Turner’s victim…” Surely HER life has been affected! Surely her joyful heart has suffered despair! Surely the happiness her family once experienced and the future she dreamed of have also been impacted. She was not the one who chose the rape, yet she will suffer the consequences more than Mr. Turner and his family. If you have ever listened to a woman wrestling with the awful memories from being raped, as I have, you will never doubt the suffering inflicted. Salinger quotes her statement to Turner, in which she asserted that he “’took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice… The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.”
Despite her brave words, she will find that moving on is much easier said than done for a woman in her position, and the healing will take a great toll. Perhaps her life will be impacted in such a way that she becomes a better person by integrating life lessons she will be learning through the entire experience. Still, it is a high price to pay for whatever those lessons may be for her.
Now for the reason I am choosing to blog about this episode. Having acquainted you with all of this, I want to say that I was struck by the father's statement regarding "the actions of 20 minutes have undermined and negated the 20+ years of better choices."
Does it make you think of any biblical passages? I think especially of a contrast found in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 11:25, Moses is praised for the choice that he makes, which was “choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” The illustration of the opposite choice is found in Hebrews 12:15-17, and is that of Esau who impetuously sold away his birthright for a quick meal, and though he regretted it afterwards, the deed had been done, there was no undoing the choice of a moment.
Sin does offer pleasure. But it is always at a price, and ultimately, at an eternal price. Just as fish seem never to learn that bait always contains a deadly hook, so people never seem to realize that sin ALWAYS comes with a price. Throughout biblical history and beyond, men and women have been faced with the choice of seeking to do right and to honor God, or choosing to go their own way and laugh. As if sinful behavior is nothing more than a joke, finding their lives ruined and rotting, heading for eternal destruction because of it. That is the core lesson to be learned from the story of Adam and Eve eating from the wrong tree in the garden. They were driven out, and the way back to innocence was blocked forever. King David had to learn the lesson, after his adultery with Bathsheba, which led to his murder of her husband, which led to the death of their baby…sin always entails unintended consequences.
Mr. Turner could have observed what happened a few years ago to the falsely accused young college men at Duke University. Had he thought about how devastating the whole experience was for them…even in trumped up charges…and how every one of those young men suffered just while being accused, Mr. Turner might have had second thoughts about risking the consequences he has now inherited for himself.
I usually encourage people that it is wiser to learn life’s lessons from the examples of others; I suspect Mr. Turner wishes he had.
Many divorces occur because one partner decides that just one night of passion with someone other than his or her spouse will not make any difference. Some even go so far as to think they can maintain the relationship and will never be caught, but then find themselves in divorce court and losing much more than they ever bargained for. Others decide to file for divorce on a whim, thinking that all it means is that a piece of paper will be signed by a judge, with no realization that it will impact their lives and their hearts with unintended and unexpected consequences over and over again.
Oh, sure, there seem to be people who “get away” with sinful behavior in this world. We can think of many rich and famous who might give that impression. But there are consequences, even if we can’t see them. Those consequences exist whether we are rich and famous or isolated individuals living quiet and unobtrusive lives. Sometimes the consequences manifest themselves outwardly, as they have for Mr. Turner. Other times they fester in the soul of the perpetrator, revealing themselves over time through a bitter and tormented heart. Some may succeed in living earthly life insulated from most of the impact, and only face the consequences of their choices when they stand before God and hear him say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” If you will bear with me for one more verse, I am reminded of Galatians 6:7-8—
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he
will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh
reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap
All verses today quoted are from the New American Standard Bible
The article discussed can be found at--