Hindsight is 20/20, right?
If I’d only known then what I know today…
It’s hard to know from day to day or from one chapter of life to the next which way to turn at “forks in the road.” And life is full of them. We sometimes find ourselves wracked with uncertainty about which choice is “right” and which choice is “wrong.” We judge ourselves. And we sometimes use our context to determine the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the choices others make.
Really, we’ve all made bad choices…but are any of them without some purpose in our lives?
Throughout this season of “Ordinary Time,” it’s difficult to tie the lectionary together in a tidy package. This week is no exception. But we do see some common themes (thanks in part to the work of the Family Worship Team). Starting with the Hebrew scripture account of Jacob and Esau, we wonder about the place our choices have in the Kingdom of God.
It takes Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his wife Rebekah a while to conceive the next generation. And when they finally do, twins are in their future. These twins wrestle mightily in Rebekah’s womb, and like any weary pregnant woman would, she petitions her God asking why she’s subject to this trauma. And the Lord’s answer isn’t very comforting…two nations in her womb, one stronger than the other, and the youngest ruling the eldest. We expect sibling rivalry, but to have it revealed prior to birth in such a dramatic way!
Go ahead and read the entire account in Genesis 25. First, it’s great writing with all sorts of plays on words and built in humor. When the boys arrive, they are indeed very different. One is hairy and red! The youngest is clinging to the firstborn’s heel as they leave the womb. Our selection for this week ends with Esau (the firstborn) trading his birthright for some red lentil stew to his kid-brother Jacob. Sure, hunger is a driving thing sometimes, but give up his birthright?
Birthright was everything in this ancient society…it was future economic stability, it was status in the community, it was power and might. And Esau was powerfully hungry. We’re with Jacob and Esau for a couple of weeks now. We’ll get to see how this plays out in weeks to come (but we won’t hold you to task if you plow ahead to read the exciting twists and turns in this story).
In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul continues to struggle with his own history and the good news that he has claimed after his conversion. Paul was a good Jewish man. He was beyond obedient to the law – he was steeped in it. It guided his life. And in Jesus Christ, he’s found new law (notice the language – he clings to the language of “law”…even the Law of Grace). In his new life, free will creates a tension between God’s law and sin. And deep down, he knows that whatever his choice, he is a precious child of God – forgiven, but challenged to live a better way.
In the gospel reading, Jesus is passing on the first of his parables. Read the entire passage (13: 1 – 23) for insight about the parables as a teaching tool and the disciples’ relationship to those parables. In this first instance, we have the benefit of Jesus’ own commentary about the parable told. A sower sows seeds on different kinds of ground. It seems as if they only beneficial planting is in “good soil.” But what about the other plantings? One feeds the birds. Another produces plants that have to contribute to the carbon exchange, right? Is only one outcome good, right, and productive?
The psalmist gives thanks for God’s guidance and petitions the Lord for the strength and ability to hold to the law. This psalm is a gentle reminder that boundaries are something we might actually consider being grateful for…not a common thought in this day and age.
So as we look back over our life and the myriad choices made, certainly there are some that were just plain bad. But we wouldn’t be the people we are in the places we are with the relationships we have and the gifts we have without those decisions. It’s not just that good decisions add to us and bad decisions take away from us. All kinds of choices and decisions leave their mark. On us and on God’s creation.
• Are their choices that you’ve looked back on with regret? Pride?
• Has your assessment of the choices that you have made changed over time? How?
• What is different about your life because of the choices you have made?
• How was God with you in your choices? In spite of your choices?
• What guidance do you offer people facing choices?
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I Hope You Dance, lyrics by Lee Ann Womack, 2000