Monday, May 9, 2005

I was recently speaking to some of the only adults I meet each week: those parents that sit in the hallway with me at the YMCA while our sons practice karate. As we swapped trade secrets on child-rearing, the subject turned to choices and the range of choices that are available to each of us. I said, off the top of my head, to the parents present, "Free will is by no means free. There always is a responsibility and price and consequence to it..."

I, a flawed and ever-failing human, am well aware of the statement above. I've made - like we all have - so many choices over the course of my years. Many of them have been positive and growth-producing, some neutral and many have been negative and painful. It is the way of our human journey. In fact, there is a poignant story to serve as an example:

The young executive asked his mentor, "What's the secret to success?"

"Two words," his mentor simply responded, "Right decisions."

"And how do you make right decisions?" the young executive inquired.

"One word," the mentor again replied, "Experience."

"And how do you get experience?" the young executive inquired again.

"Two words," the mentor answered again, "Wrong decisions."

Free will is often times seen as the inseparable twisting curse and blessing of our human condition. It is through our free will - both healthy and unhealthy, wise and unwise decisions - that we are able to learn and grow and mature. It is also through our free will that we are able to assist in others' learning and growth... both positive and negative. It is our free will that gives us the miraculous ability to touch each others' soul and remain connected as a humanity. It is also our free will that gives us the devastating ability to scorch another's spirit and wounded that connected humanity.

We, my friend, are inseparable. There is very little that we can do - privately or publicly - that doesn't eventually affect so many others in a ripple effect. In private, the choices we make forms the character we are and the life force that touches so many other lives. In public, the choices we make form the relationships that define us and others - both powerfully and painfully.

Did you know that in ancient times, a sin-eater was a person who, through ritual means and for material gain, would take on the sins of a dying person, thus absolving the dying of their sins while receiving the burden of the same? Traditionally, each village maintained its own sin-eater. The sin-eater would be brought to the dying person's bedside, and there either he or a relative would place a bit of bread on the breast of the dying. After praying and/or reciting the ritual, he would then remove the bread from the breast and eat it, the act of which would remove the sin from the dying and take it into himself.

But there is no sin-eater for any of us. We must each live with the values we hold true and the choices we make. For these values and choices set into motion the actions and consequences that have a cascading effect on our life and those around us. Knowing this, it doesn't seem so simple as just getting out of bed in the morning and going about our business, does it?

Recommit yourself today to choose to make conscious choices in your life. Seek counsel or ministry to absolve you of your past sins and mistakes. Make right the wrongs that still linger over your head. And then become more conscientious in the choices you make - knowing that it is your singular life that can have a tremendous impact on so many other lives... it remains your choice and free will to decide the outcome of that specific impact.

hoedl's haven
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