Pondering on the readings for the sixth Sunday after Epiphany.
The lectionary readings are here.

“I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.”
Deuteronomy 30:19 GNBDC

I did a thing this week that I don’t usually do – I chimed in with my thoughts on a Facebook post, carefully crafted to express my thoughts and my reason for thinking them, trying my best to not invalidate the words or experience of the original poster, just offering my point of view. It took courage because I live in the self-assumption that my words have no impact on the world so why bother voicing them. Yes, I write a lot but it’s different when my words are in response to someone else’s. And here’s what happened. Other people responded to my words making all sorts of assumptions about what I knew (and didn’t) and without even referencing my experiences that informed my words. They didn’t seek to clarify or ask me to engage in a conversation wanting to know me better, they just invalidated my experience, trumping my words with theirs. And the most troubling part is these are colleagues whom I know and I really do doubt they even knew the impact their words would have. I don’t believe they intended to invalidate my voice. They were filling some inner need to be right, or the smartest, or the most powerful, or to feel worthy. I can’t know their inner motivation, I can only give them the benefit of the doubt and see them with compassionate rather than competitive eyes.

I am also in the middle of another situation in which two individuals are standing firm with ‘I’m right’ and refusing to budge. Instead of my typical mediating to try and bring the two people to a mutual agreement, I’ve taken a stand with one of them because this person is sincerely working for the benefit of the greater number of folks. The other person is only working to control the situation and be right and is either completely unaware of the relational harm they are causing or if they are aware, it appears that being right is more important to them than being relational.

It takes a lot of work and time and energy to become aware of our inner motivations, to ask ourselves “why do I do what I do?” What need am I trying to get fulfilled? What am I avoiding? What am I afraid of? How does my behavior impact those around me? And this is the work that choosing life & blessing requires.

Moses tells the people following him through the wilderness that they have a choice between blessing and curses, life and death. Whether we are aware of it or not, we each make this choice daily, with every interaction we have with another. Moses’ words aren’t about individual benefit, am I getting a blessing, but about living in relationship with others. Moses is helping them learn to ask of themselves, am I offering a blessing or am I cursing, am I being life-giving or life-taking, am I helping keep their candle burning or blowing it out? Am I competing or trying to walk alongside?

The life God desires for all of us is one of companionship, grounded in God’s love for all and our love for God, our neighbors, and ourselves. Jesus says to make our yes, yes, and our no, no, to be honest and authentic, not seeking to manipulate others for our own gain but to seek the greater good. So often we don’t even realize we are being self-serving because we have used these behaviors our whole lives and we’ve convinced ourselves it’s working. And yet we don’t feel fulfilled. And so we have to be brave enough to ask ourselves why. This emotional awareness, relationship building work is our life’s work in God’s Kingdom.

In the first situation I described above, I chose not to engage further in the posts; I needed my energy for other things, face-to-face encounters with others whom I hope and pray I helped shine brighter. In the second situation, I choose to love them each as well as I can and with God’s help. I can’t force this work on anyone or do it for them, I can only work at being the best I can with God’s help.

The life God offers us is a life of relationship, journeying together, building each other up, authentically living from the image of God within us, and seeing the image of God in each other, prospering in the Kingdom on earth as in heaven. This life God offers us is a shared life, in community, in communion with others, witnessing to and living in the consequences of the choices we make. Choose life.

One thought on “Choices

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