Choose life - That you may live

Choose life - that you may live

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This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses, therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

On reading this powerful scripture one could well wonder how is it that any believing Christian could end up in a place where they choose death over life, where they embrace curses rather than blessings.

Sure, when we are born again, we all experience death, but it’s death to sin and to our old selves, and then we are raised to a new life, a new and positive hope for both our present and our future in Christ.

Then why do so many born again believers find themselves dragging around the rotting corpse of the old man, hiding its foulness in secret corners of the mind or body, and attempting to mask the stench with copious applications of the incense of religiosity so that we can appear as a fragrant offering, if not to God, who knows the truth, at least to fellow believers.

A lot of it has to do with mental or physical habits, entrenched patterns of thought, most often imposed from early childhood onwards by our parents. Parents, ah yes, it’s an onerous, fearful responsibility, to be a parent, to have such god-like power. My own father was a narcissist and my two siblings and I were all touched in different ways by the tyranny of his self-obsession. I was the object of his anger as I refused to conform, even daring to oppose him in defending my mother from physical attack. But though he sometimes hurt me physically, the greater hurt was in the constant barrage of criticism, of condemnation. Words that I internalized and years later, after his death and even after 35 years as a Christian, I still find myself using: telling myself how useless I am, how I'll never amount to anything, how I'd be much better off dead.

And so, this year, when two heart attacks and a risky operation have brought me face to face with death three times, I wonder how much of this I have brought upon myself by the unwitting choices I have made to keep listening to the lies from my past. Yes, the choices I made, my choices. I can no longer shove the responsibility off onto my father's shade.

Once I was baby-sitting for a seven-year old boy who suffered from severe asthma and he clearly felt that my sudden onset migraine attack could not compare with his condition. “I could die of asthma”, he announced belligerently. I answered that I just wished I could die. And I have, many times, wished I could die. Not just to escape the intense pain of repeated classic migraine attacks, but the mental missile attacks I have continued to launch against myself, often successfully shooting down any project that looked like succeeding. It'll never amount to anything, it's not worth even trying, I'd be better off dead.

Now, at the age of 60, I want to live, I'm finally sure I do. Despite having accumulated some heavy baggage, in the form of several chronic, concurrent and painful health problems, I do want to live. I have to accept that the bodily pain I live with daily could be, in part, a consequence of where my head has been all these years. But I still want to live.

So, what do I want to live for? I want to live for my dear and Godly husband, to be there for him, as I know he would flounder dreadfully were I to die before him. I want to be there to see my lovely, daffy daughter with a home of her own, a job and a husband too, knowing already that she loves and lives for the Lord. I want to see my series of Scripture paintings finally hanging in the atrium of the Church where we have invested the last 10 years, and to see a new generation of Godly worshippers taking over from us old-uns. I want to live and actually finish a task that I believe God has given me to do, to share the Word through illustrated Bible stories for children: a project worked on over several years that has spent even longer gathering dust on a shelf in my study. I want to see a real, profound reconciliation with my sister, even though it may be painful getting there.

But I'm still skirting round the real issue, as this list is all about doing. The heart of the matter is about being. I want to know fully who I am and to be at peace with that person. And the only way to do that is to stop doing, to spend time being in the presence of the great I AM, and to rediscover who I am in him, my heavenly Father. This Father is not a monster in any shape or form, and his love is revealed in my Saviour Jesus Christ. My Jesus, my Saviour, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, is more than able to accompany me in my pain, and to enable me to pass through the deep waters without being overwhelmed. Then I will be able to say with Paul:

For I know that through your prayers and God's provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will not be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now and always Christ will be exalted in my body whether by life or death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your joy and progress in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Jesus Christ will abound on account of me.” Philippians 1:19-26: