I was listening to an incarcerated man speak about his children last week; “This is my life. It is what I’ve always wanted. Not jail but respect. To get the respect I had to do things which would take me to jail. When my boy grows up if this is the life he lives I will respect him and we’ll rule the jail together.” To hear him hurt my heart. He had decided there was a certain path he, and his family, had no choice to follow to achieve his goal; respect. He didn’t realize it but he was talking about fate.
The dictionary defines fate; “the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.” For this man, the family he was born into, the house he grew up in, the neighborhood he roamed as an adolescent, the laws and societal norms he broke to fit in, powers beyond his control, all came together to put him on the path of being incarcerated. It was his fate and the presumably the fate of his children as well.
Wisdom tells us there are two circles; a large one and a small one. The large one is the things we cannot control; events, tragedies, positive occurrences and negative influences, most of life fits in this circle. The smaller circle are things we can control; choices, habits, reactions, responses to the negative influences and the positive occurrences. There is much out of control and life can seem overwhelming and chaotic. How do we find the right path in a world full of greed, hate, and evil? How do we know what’s right when a lot of things seem headed in the wrong direction? Or, are we fated to walk a certain path because of where we were born and to whom, grew up, genetics, role models?
The power to choose, to react, respond to the life that is given to us is great. It cannot stop tragedies, events, life from happening but it can decide how these things which are out of our control impact us. Life seems easier for some than others. Privilege is real. However, it doesn’t define us unless we allow it to set our course.
Messy Good –
Today I sat on a stool in the kitchen while my wife cooked a dish for the family Thanksgiving meal. I watched her boil noodles, crack eggs, mix in cheese, add milk, thick whipping cream and whip all of the ingredients into a thick bowl of mush. It didn’t smell, look, or appear appetizing at all. She then poured it into a large glass casserole dish and slide it into the oven. About an hour later out came one of my favorite dishes, “Nana’s macaroni and cheese!” It looked great, smelled even better and, when it cools off, I will have a large serving and enjoy every bite.
It’s amazing to me how something so messy and chaotically made can turn into something so tasty good and wonderful. This week has been rough! Someone close to me is going through hell and the only thing I can do is pray and offer words of encouragement. One of the hardest experiences to endure is knowing you’re powerless to stop someone else’s suffering. Pain, medicine, bad reactions, heartache, death. Life can be messy, unseemly, and at times unbearable.
However, there is a light which stirs in us a hope that the chaos, the turmoil, the misery, somehow, someway, will be made into goodness and worth the messiness life can bring our way.
Sum of Life –
“…the sum of Your words is Truth.”
#Psalms 119 v160
This portion of Psalm 119 was part of my Daily Office reading this morning. It is the longest Psalm in the Bible coming in at 176 verses. There’s a lot of words in these verses and to have one of them say; “The sum of your words is truth,” was humorous to me because I wondered; “Why so many words and verses then?” As I’ve reflected on; “The sum of your words is truth“, I’ve considered; “What is the sum of our life?”
Albert Camus says; “Life is the sum of our choices.” In other words at the time of our death, when we look back over the journey we’ve traveled, it will be the innumerable decisions, made over the countless minutes, hours, days and years we’ve been given which ultimately decides who and what we are, our impact upon the world. Is this true? Are we simply the sum of our selections? What about the tragedies and miracles, unexpected and unwanted events and experiences which happen to us? How do these figure into the equation? Is it also our reactions to these?
I’m not convinced that we are completely in charge of our destiny. There are too many unknown variables, caveats and exceptions. What I do believe is that life happens. How we accept and adjust to it all makes us the people we are presently and will become eventually. I also think we are never done “becoming” and when we take our last breath, however the sum of our lives is ultimately calculated, desiring to make the best choices for ourselves and others is the best way to go.