This week’s reading is chock full of prophecy. Also familiar threats, instructions, and foreboding about future trials and tribulations. But the key to it all, perhaps the key to everything the whole process of searching and self-betterment is about, is the declaration that you have a choice between life/goodness and death/evil. You might quibble with those pairings, but would you do so with the command that you are to choose life?
So much to unpack. And life offers so many chances to use your free will to do exactly the opposite. To run for the door and say, Thanks, I’m outta here. Done.
Terrifying challenges in individual lives and in history. Choosing death to escape the horrors of Auschwitz, or of systematic abuse. To end a terminal illness before the pain is too great. To assist a loved one who chooses that. Or simply to say, I’ve done what I wanted to do this time around. Next….
That’s literal death. There’s also metaphoric, emotional, and spiritual killings: the more subtle ways that we shut down, live safely, forget to stay open to the new and the now, avoid embracing whatever might threaten our tidy realities.
Sometimes we do set the bar higher, like when we make changes in partners, jobs, locations, even belief systems or daily practices. But often those choices simply reinforce what we’ve decided we want our lives to be like in context and form. So many assumptions made over time, or encouraged by family and institutions, about whom we’ll become, how we’ll live.
So much time devoted to manifesting personal goals, that we sometimes forget we’re also part of an ethos, a zeitgeist.
Often we identify as part of groups based on our age, region, religion, or sports team. We may live like that’s who we are. But it’s important to remember that this life we’ve been given, this gift, is about very much more than our affiliations, or comfort, or who dies with the most toys. It’s about making some difference while you’re here, to your own soul and the lives of those around you.
Choose life is literally that: Don’t kill yourself. It also means, don’t forsake your responsibility for being part of both your chosen tribes and also our collective humanity.
Live as both witness and actor. Don’t shut your eyes to difficult things in the world because they’re painful, or might inconvenience you. Engage with the world, taking responsibility for what you see. Make choices that’ll help clean up this planet, your neighborhood, and your soul. That can mean recycling, volunteering, or planting a garden. Teaching reading or donating money. Even prayer.
Choosing life means an active awareness of your free will in each moment. It means choosing kindness and compassion instead of pique or anger. Choosing generosity instead of self-interest. Choosing love, social justice, environmental responsibility, and love. It means choosing goodness: seeing, creating, and affirming your highest values in as many times and places as you can.
You get to choose. Each time you choose life, we all win.
Exercise: Answer this one question: What does “Choose life!” mean I should do differently?