May 10 - We are the choices we make.

The choices we make

            It was a glorious, sunny afternoon and, being on holiday, I decided to explore a path following a burn to the west of St Andrews. The trees were just beginning to give first intimation of donning their green clothing for the spring, and whilst the air was cool, the sun was warm and it was a perfect day for walking.

            I followed the path, listening to the enchanting sound of birdsong and the nearby burn gurgling its way towards the coast. My carefree solitude was soon interrupted by an unwanted decision. I was confronted with a choice. A fork appeared in my path; one branch moving closer to the burn and the other rising sharply to my right. I opted to remain closer to the burn.

            This was the wrong choice.

            I had opted for the quagmire.

            Had I thought more carefully, I might have guessed why there was a higher path.

            It was the wrong choice. Instead of making my way home without a care, I found myself trudging uncomfortably with mud-splattered trainers, which in turn prevented me from walking directly into town to enjoy refreshment and a cake in a local coffee shop. One decision impacted on my subsequent plans. Our choices make a difference.

            Life is full of choices, many of them much more significant than the trivial one facing me whilst I walked in St Andrews.

            We are the choices we make.

            Through each of our lives we are confronted by choices, and within each decision forced by them, lie the seeds of who we become. In many respects this is the message of Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (v.1)

            Here is someone who is gradually grinding to a halt, from walking to standing to sitting. Having picked up the wrong advice, listened to the wrong voices and adopted the wrong values, he begins to sink to the next level and is adopting the lifestyle consistent with those values, until finally he Ďsitsí, sneering at those who do not do as he does. He may even sneer at what he once was.

            By contrast, the righteous find delight in Godís law

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (v.2-3)

            Thus the Psalter begins by presenting a choice. There are two ways to live. One leads to life, the other to death and misery.

            How many people once attended worship regularly, and perhaps professed Christian faith gladly, but are now nowhere to be found on Sunday, and less comfortable to be numbered among believers? The change from one thing to the other did not happen suddenly, but would likely be the product of many decisions and the outcome of a series of new priorities being adopted, one leading inexorably to the next. Sometimes, on this path, we struggle to recognise what we once were; and there was a time when we would barely believe what we have allowed ourselves to become.

            I had a friend who left his wife and made off with the wife of another man, leaving distraught children in their wake. There was a time in his life when he was the doughty defender of the sanctity of marriage. Yet, here I was dealing with the aftermath of his sudden (to me) departure from the family home and his flight with his new woman, leaving two broken families. Speaking to him, you would think that he was the innocent victim of some emotional tide that swept him up and carried him off. However, the more I spoke with him, the more I realised that this radical departure of his was the outcome of a series of decisions and choices taken over a period of time. He was now running off because he had chosen to no longer stand by his wife and because he really wanted to take off with a new partner. At some point he had begun adopting a new set of goals and priorities and ambitions in life. He wanted this and he chose this. There was conscious choice here. He knew the misery he would leave behind; he even knew that what he was doing was morally wrong, but this course of action was the product of a series of choices he had made. A few years previously he would not have recognised the man he had now become.

            We are the choices we make.

            Psalm 1 opens the Psalter by outlining the fundamental choice facing all of us Ė which way we to go in life: Godís way, or not Godís way. In many ways, Psalm 1 echoes the covenant God made earlier with His people. If you read Deuteronomy 28, there is a presentation given to the people of two ways to go, and a choice to be made. Godís way and the way of blessing; or not Godís way and the way of cursing. Psalm 1 echoes that same fundamental choice.

            In fact, the same stark choice is presented by Jesus: Matthew 7:13-14

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

            We are the choices we make.

            Your minister

            Martin Thomson

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