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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Choice in Life and in Marriage...


The older I get (and I am definitely doing that!), the more I am aware of how much choices we make in life affect the outcomes of our lives for many, many years.  When I was in junior high a few years ago, back before everybody had middle schools, the librarian at the school had a plaque on her desk with the following quotation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Choice, not chance, determines human destiny.”  I have never forgotten that, and believe there is a lot of truth in it. 

(NOTE:  I know that this quote is not an actual quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The quote is attributed to Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers.)

Theologically, I have a certainty of God’s control over the affairs of the world, and of His ultimate sovereignty.  I believe He works His good will into our lives, thwarting even the worst of intentions, as He did with the cross and as Paul describes in Romans 8.  And yet, somehow, the choices we make are woven into the texture of how God works in our lives.  It isn’t entirely up to God to accomplish everything, nor is it entirely up to us.  But the two dovetail and sometimes we blame God for the results of choices WE make, and take credit for results HE creates! 

I remember a Swedish Christian singer named Evie Tornquist Karlson once telling, that because she gave her life to the Lord as a very young child, she later realized that there was a great deal of heartache and suffering she was spared, because she did not get involved in the practices so many young people do that result in far too many tragedies.  I remember speaker/professor/writer Tony Campolo talking about life, and comparing people to the balls on a pool table.  In his talk, he said many people behave like the numbered balls, sitting around on the table waiting for something to bump into them and make something happen.  But there are also people whose lives are more like the cue ball, who initiate action and set things in motion.  His point is, of course, it is our choice that determines which way our lives will transpire.
I have seen in my life and the lives of those I know, people make choices and then find out years later that those choices have literally shaped the kind of person they are, and the kind of life that they have.  Sometimes it is in the realm of education and career choices.  Sometimes it is more how we respond to difficulties in life.  Sometimes it even relates to how we respond to the consequences of choice we have made previously!  For instance, we may choose to major in a specific field in college, enter the work force, and after a few years, decide we do not like the work we do or the place we live.  Are we then stuck with the choices of the past, or do we realize it is time to take some classes to retool in order to change our situation?  I know many who feel they have just kind of gotten stuck.  But I know others who have the courage to step out and make the changes.

Marriage and divorce are certainly all about these kinds of choices.  We choose a mate early in life, and then later discover that our marriage is not all that we imagined it could be.  We then must choose again.  Are we willing to choose to do what it takes to make the marriage better?  Do we have no other choice than to be stuck in a marriage that doesn’t work or get out through divorce?  Harriet Lehrner’s books, such as The Dance of Anger, explain ways that, even within a lousy system, one person has the ability to choose to make things different.  At the same time, it is also true we can only make our OWN choices…we cannot choose for another person to change and behave differently or make wiser choices.  Every parent wishes at some time or another they could make their children see the “right choice,” but even our children must learn for themselves sometimes.  And, of course, divorce is also a choice that many make, sometimes way too early, sometimes way too late. 

In all of this, I just want to come back to King’s quote:  “Choice, not chance, determines human destiny.”  God has given us the ability to reason and choose.  In fact, multiple times in the scripture, He challenges us as to whether we will choose to be obedient to His teachings or choose to rebel and walk away.  Can you see in your life things you do not like, but know that they are the consequences of choices you made long ago?  Do you pay attention, as you make choices now, to the fact that those choices will also bring consequences you will experience for many years to come, some of which you cannot even know at this time?  And, if life is not how you wish it were, are you willing to choose to make something different happen?

My wife shared with me some things from a very interesting book she has been reading, in which the cultural differences are described in relation to people and their experience of power.  Many people have suffered under powerlessness for so long, they do not know or believe they have any power to make anything different.  But we do, if only we can learn, the incredible power of choice.  I encourage you, no matter what state and stage of life you are in, to consider making your choices in such a way that God’s teachings are the core and guiding values.  Choose wisely, choose thoughtfully, and as much as possible, do not choose hastily.  As Evie pointed out, THAT ONE CHOICE, may well spare you the heartache of many difficult choices later in life.

TL:dr  God gives us choice and then gives us guidelines to make wise choices, and our lives are shaped forever because of the way we decide to choose.

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