The Choices We Make

The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’  Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress.  Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead.

  • 1 Chronicles 21:9-14

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

In the first Scripture, David had to make a difficult choice after he had sinned by calling for a census (relying on the size of the army instead of relying upon God).  In the second Scripture, God chose the true believers, in this case relating to the Thessalonian believers.

We have a lot of choices that we make each day.  I had a campfire talk with the Boy Scout troop where I was scoutmaster for a brief period.  The thing is that we should pray about the decision, and not after we have made the decision.  We should pray for guidance before making the choice.  We should also seek the best option rather than taking the convenient option.

But first, what brought this topic to mind?

The other day, I dropped my wife off at the dialysis center.  The center is on top of a hill and halfway down the hill you come to two intersections that are very close together.  A side road to the left is rarely traveled now that COVID restrictions have closed many businesses, but the main road down the hill, where I was, has a stop sign as well as the side road.  Then, four car lengths further, there is a traffic light.  The stop signs are designed to allow people from the side road to enter into the traffic flow during shift change (not that shift change happens anymore).

On this day, I saw that the light was green, but I had a choice.  If I drove past the stop sign without stopping, I would make it through the traffic light.  If I stopped for the stop sign, I would not get to the traffic light before it started to change.  I chose to stop.

As I was laughing at the contradictions that the choice gave me, someone from the side road sped through past the stop sign and barely made it through the traffic light on the yellow.  Now, I was laughing out loud.

What contradictions?  If you must violate traffic law by not stopping at a stop sign just so that you can go through a traffic light on the yellow, why are you even looking at any roadside sign or signal?  If you dutifully stopped for the stop sign, why could you not run the red light instead?  Why do something illegal at one intersection so that you could do something marginally acceptable at the next intersection?  Why do you predetermine which traffic laws are okay to violate?  In the process of speeding up to make the light on yellow, he was probably speeding also.  Does that make any sense at all, to violate the law in order to obey the law?

I waited three seconds at the stop sign, ensuring that I was completely stopped.  The light was already red.  I coasted to the red light and there were only 2-3 cars coming through the intersection.  I waited for them to pass and since I was turning right, I legally turned right on red after stopping and when the traffic was clear.  At most, I made it through the light in less than a minute after the speeding car that drove past the stop sign to avoid a stop light.  If you are that late to an appointment, you could have left a little earlier.

Thinking of leaving earlier, I once had a co-worker who never got to work on time.  For a long time, he was over an hour late to work.  He said that due to the heavy traffic flow, it was impossible to get to work on time.  I suggested that he was probably already late when he left his townhouse.  I Aalso suggested that he could leave earlier.  He replied that he would be to work within thirty-minutes, and he refused to get to work too early.  He was not going to work for free.  Odd, I saw him spend hours on his computer watching the stock ticker instead of working for the 6 hours instead of 8 hours that he was at “work.”  To explain the six hours, he also left an hour early to make up for the hour late getting to work.  Management eventually talked to him (obvious when they monitor the security cameras and double-check that versus the time each employee’s computer is turned on and off – yes, Big Brother has many tools).  He started getting to work thirty-minutes late instead of the hour late.

What did I tell the scout troop?  It was a tale of choices.

There was once two boys who played the lead and sidekick in the senior play, Li’l Abner.  One was Abner, the lead and title character, and the other was Marryin’ Sam, sidekick and comic relief.  The one that played Abner went to computer school and a year later had a diploma and a job as a programmer.  The one that played Marryin’ Sam went to a four-year degree university.

A year later, they both registered for the military draft and the lottery numbers were pulled out of the hat.  Both of their birthdays were within the first dozen numbers, guaranteeing them to be the first and second men drafted in the region, unless they made a choice.  Without being in college “Abner” was about to get drafted.  With them getting rid of the college deferment, “Marryin’ Sam” would be right behind him.  “Abner” enlisted and used his computer skills to avoid going to Vietnam, going to a bunker in Thailand instead.  “Marryin’ Sam’ was offered an ROTC scholarship and took it for his last three years of college.

At the end of those three years, “Abner” was returning from Thailand, and going back to his job.  And since the war was just over, “Marryin’ Sam” was asked to go to graduate school, because the Army did not need him yet – but eventually he served. And he would not get to Thailand for more than 20 more years.

Up to this point, there were decisions made and it should have not mattered which choice was taken, but “Abner” was exposed to drugs in Thailand, and he did not choose wisely.  He returned home, got married, had children, and then got divorced.  His wife could not put up with his drug problem.  “Abner” committed suicide as a result.

In the meantime, “Marryin’ Sam” got the graduate degree, spent four years in the military.  He got married and had children.  He never did drugs and never got drunk with alcohol.

It’s a matter of choices.  One chose a quick degree, the other chose a degree that took much more time.  Those choices could have led to bad consequences, but they did not.  The first choice that mattered was to start taking drugs.  The second choice that mattered was ending his life.  So many people can make one bad choice and follow it with an even worse choice.

If you have ever had a friend who has committed suicide, it affects everyone.  You ask if you only knew, could you have said something that might change things.

Now, roughly 35 years since I told that story, I am still haunted by the loss of an old friend and a few others who have taken their own lives.

But I need to lighten the mood a bit.  I would like to celebrate an old memory instead of continue mourning one’s passing.  In remembering my old friend, I remember our duet in the senior play.  Here is the movie version of our duet, The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands.

I sure wish the government would get off of their “thigh bones!”  Otherwise, it does not seem like much has changed.

But Marryin’ Sam also got to have a duet with the female lead, I’m Past My Prime.

And do not think that Marryin’ Sam did not have a signature solo, Jubilation T. Cornpone.

And looking back on all this, I cannot believe that I could remember all those lyrics, much less the lines.  I remember that Sam’s most expensive wedding ceremony included having his hands and feet tied to four mules and while the mules went north, south, east, and west, Marryin’ Sam would recite the famous quotations of Alf Landon.  What that has to do with a wedding, I have no idea, but it must have been a sight.  And if you wonder who Alf Landon is, you can look him up, but he was a wise man. One of his most important quotes is “Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans.”

I hope I have brought cheer to people’s hearts.  Let us remember those good times.  Let us remember that we can still be of good use for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.  And let us be reminded that if we cannot see a future and we cannot remember the good in our past, remember that there are those out there who man prayer lines and suicide lines, and they can help you.  You have a choice.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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