Did you ever stop a minute and look back over the events of your life and see the effect of a single choice that you made? How it led to chain of occurrences, and affected so much more than you ever could have forseen? I sometimes am astonished at the power a single choice has had on the world around me, rippling off into the future, taking on a life of its own.
One easy example is the birth of a child. If you, like I, went headstrong into the world as a young person, and did not wait until marriage to engage in sex with the boyfriend of the time, then upon becoming pregnant, had to decide how to proceed, then you know what I am talking about. So we decide, and that decision goes forward with us, whether we embrace or reject the life now created. After my first go at it, in which I chose to abort, I married and had seven children. Having learned from that the real agenda of the abortion/death proponents, and that it fostered death in my own life and those around me, I never had to actively choose if I would give birth to the rest. But in choosing to cooperate in the creation of each child, whole new lifetimes of choice-makers are brought into the world. The ripples of effect from the abortion also followed me into the future, these being mostly negative, in the form of PTSD type symptoms, but the positive has been that I experienced God's grace and His willingness to entrust seven more souls to me, and that now I am able to enjoy all they give to me and to the world.
But even a seemingly smaller choice can resonate--something you say to someone, who takes that thing to heart and acts on it, positive or negative. Paying attention when someone is talking. Deciding whether to attend a daily mass, say a rosary, write a letter; they all go out from us and make their mark on the world. Do we always get to know what happens? No, but sometimes God allows us a window-we see someone we encouraged go on to pursue a certain path, or someone we discouraged with a harsh word, withdraw.
This reminds me of the discussion that can ensue with people who claim
they are not puppets of any religion, or God. Who trumpet "choice" as a religion that worships whatever thought is in their heads at any given moment. Why would anyone think that choices belong to them alone? That they don't make any choice in a vacuum? God, in His wisdom allows us to live, free in every moment of our lives, to choose to live in Him and pursue holiness, or not. We know we never "arrive" at perfection but that the journey of a life relinquished to God is the epitome of freedom. And alternately, a life dedicated to promoting separation from God (goes by the name of Pride) is really a life of shackles. The world, the flesh and ultimately, the devil are harsh taskmasters. Case in point, in observing the relationships of those who would eschew all allegiance to God, I see an angry, defensive lot that chews up and spits out its own as soon as someone doesn't toe the party line. "Wait!" I want to say--"I thought you were all about choice"? Oh--only certain choices--"who gets to decide which choices"? oh, a certain group of people--"who chooses which people"?--oh, only other people who reject God. okay. I think I get it....one who "makes all their own choices" is not entirely self driven, but rather a reaction to those who willingly submit themselves to God, and especially if they dare to share their faith with others, and claim, as Jesus said, that He is The Way, the Truth and the Life. So it is okay to follow in lockstep with some person who says that you don't need God. (Whose narrative goes something like-"who is HE anyway, to try and tell you what to do, oh and by the way--do what I tell you to do, and don't mess up, or you're out"!). Well, all I can tell you is that THAT particular drama played out in the garden, and it seems to be in theaters near you, perpetually.
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6
This line of thinking then gets me to thinking about truth and charity. Many times, I hear people talking of Christian love, (charity), in kind of gloppy sounding terms, as though love=sappy words*, always agreeable words, words that would never hurt anyone's feelings, or in the terms of the day, "disrespect" them in any way. What is left then? How can you communicate truth to someone in error or (gasp) sin without ever countering the beliefs leading to their behavior? I firmly believe that to lie to someone is not to love them at all. I understand that a certain degree of relationship is needed to engage a person on that level, that is a given. With acquaintances we have to rely on our demeanor and example. So here, a demeanor that radiates God's love and peace are something to aim for. (of course, it helps to foster God's love and peace oneself before trying to import it). But there is a time for direct, truthful words. Ones that don't tiptoe around the truth.
*what leaps to mind at the thought of sappy Christian love is the Franco Zefirelli depiction of Saint Francis, in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, a film from 1973, in which Saint Francis appears with an expression of ecstasy permanently stuck on his face.
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity, Proverbs 17:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6
Who knows if the words spoken today will not shape someones future? Who knows if those words might even shape their eternal future? If we have the truth within us, we have a treasure that Jesus asked us to give away freely. He tells us we will be hated because of Him. Hated. Wow. Not irritated, not annoyed.
But are we willing to go that far? Not to go around ready to bite heads off for Jesus, but to carry His love and mercy in us, and be ready in season and out of season, to give witness to him?
18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'[c]
26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.