‘Today, I have set before life and death, blessings and curses,
choose life, that you and your descendants may live.’
This was one of those days when the sermon was going to happen on a wing and a prayer. The alarm goes off. You look at the lectionary app so that you can plan in the shower. You hope for the best.
Choose life, so you may live.
The relief flooded over me. A text I love. A text that always speaks. I knew, by then, the sermon would take care of itself. But it was more than that. This was once again the gift: choose life.
I was first given this text by a nun who didn’t quite know what to do with me during my first Retreat in Daily Life. I was given it again by a nun who did know what to do with me during my second Retreat in Daily Life. The first nun couldn’t cope with my saying, ‘I understand, but I don’t know how.’ The second one could.
We cannot actually take it for granted that we know how to choose.
For me, I had chosen very early on. I had chosen to survive. And that choice did away with any niceties of preference. To survive, you learn not to want what you want, so that you are not disappointed by what you don’t get, till the whole notion of choosing falls away. This was all a long tine ago now. Old wounds mostly healed. But that is why this text rings like a sharp bell, cuts like a two-edged sword, opens a vast space of yearning, even as my throat catches in fear. ‘Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.’
If you are a survivor, you will know: to choose life is to let go of survival. It is to choose risk, to risk death, to risk pain, and (worse) failure. To choose life, you will have to learn, first, to feel.
‘Choose life’ is always a knife edge — the quickening tears, and the quickening hope that life is worth choosing.
And yes: there could be curses.
And yes: you may choose badly.
But look: you can choose. Choose life, and choose again.
There is no other way we can have freedom, and no other way we can find joy.
I’m still not sure I know how to choose life.
There are still many days I forget, or choose badly, or get stuck in the habits of survival.
But sometimes, life comes. And I get to choose it: and it might be painful; and it might be beautiful; and it is always good.