When most of us see these two words together – choose life – we assume, with gratefulness to the pro-life movement, that they are messaging, “Don’t abort your baby.” And likely, in today’s world of promoting everything we believe in on vehicles, that is exactly what is being promoted. After all, those words decorate license plates and bumper stickers on millions of cars across America, so we are faced with the message on a weekly, if not daily basis. Did you ever wonder how they coined that perfect, succinct phrase? Well, as Solomon so aptly wrote, there is nothing new under the sun.
You might find it interesting to know that God used those two instructive words together first in Deuteronomy 30:19-20. After three chapters clarifying to His people the blessings that would come with obedience and the curses that would follow disobedience, God summed it up by stating clearly, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…” (NKJV)
‘Length of days and years of life’ – Proverbs 3:1-2 use that same phrase in the NASV: My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
So, what is the difference between choosing life and choosing length of days? Deuteronomy 30, said that God is our life and the length of our days; however, He instructed His people to choose life. Why? The few commentaries I read stated that ‘years of life’ implied a life worth living, a life fit to be called ‘life’, whereas ‘length of days’ denotes merely an extension of years.
Too often, I fear, we choose length of days by default.
You probably feel like I am rambling here; perhaps I am; I hope you will hang around for the ride.
Lately, though, I’ve been sort of slapped with the realization that much of my own life has been spent preparing for a life rather than choosing life each day. It reminds me of an article I read decades ago by the late journalist Erma Bombeck. (I realize that many of you have no clue who she was; Google her; it will be worth your time. 😉). While generally finding humor in mothering and life, this time she penned a sobering article about not wishing away your life or the lives of your children. One of my favorites was titled, “If I Had My Life to Live Over.” I remember thinking often of her words as my kids were growing up, when I grew frustrated or anxious concerning their behavior or progress or any of the things mothers grow frustrated and anxious about. Her words reminded me to cherish the moments with them, which may be why I miss them so greatly now that two of them live far way!
Seems I haven’t done the same with myself…cherishing moments, grateful for each day’s adventure, however small or great.
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but when I was a teenager, back in the dark ages, I honestly believed that ‘God’s Calling,’ (hear that in a sonorous, meaningful voice), meant that, when one answered it – and I did – wholeheartedly as a committed 15-year-old– one was then (a) a missionary, (b) a pastor, (c) a pastor’s wife (admittedly a step down, in my mind :D), or (d) Kay Arthur’s replacement. Can I get an Amen?!
Obviously, growing up in Southern Baptist world, it was crystal clear that option B was out for me, so A, C or D were the choices I faced, right? Meeting my future husband in the youth group didn’t pan out well for being a missionary; HE didn’t feel that call. However, he thought he was going to be a music minister, so it was going to work out nicely for The Calling, but I also felt called to D…I’m an overachiever, OK? I wanted to be doubly sure I answered my calling in full obedience.
Fast forward 25 years. My husband served in formal ministry only a short time, but he remained in volunteer ministry in many capacities, (read: practically full-time). My life calling during those years had been raising our children, as well as active volunteer ministry, and I had no regrets. I had done so wholeheartedly, albeit, admittedly, at times with internal questioning about not being more like Kay Arthur or now, Beth Moore .
We blinked, and our last child was getting married soon. Lo and behold, one sunny morning sipping coffee at the kitchen table, I heard The Calling, again. I had been studying in Romans and there, underlined in my Bible from who knows how many years before, was verse 11:29: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. OH DEAR! Was I still called to be a missionary or ‘Kay Arthur’?!
I won’t bore you with how it all came down – the years of finishing my bachelor’s degree, followed by a Master’s degree, clinical training for over 2 years to become a hospital chaplain, sidelined due to an illness, back for another Master’s on a path to become a marriage and family therapist…because God knows, HE COULDN’T USE ME UNLESS I HAD A TITLE!!! (or could He?) You know, as in “Missionary,” “Counselor,” “Minister,” (Shhh, don’t tell the Baptists, but I was ordained in the Vineyard Church we were attending so that I could become a bona fide hospital chaplain 😊).
Anyway, while I was running full steam ahead exhausting myself, fighting chronic pain, then cancer, (and I won’t even go into the woes of the extended family stuff!), my length of days morphed into the sixth decade…yep, you read that correctly, the daggone sixth decade!
Now, I find myself at another crossroad…and questions began humming in my head a few weeks ago, “Did I default to ‘length of days’ somewhere along the way, sacrificing ‘years of life’? Did the calling or the vision morph into a god, somehow? Have I been serving it rather than the Giver of the gift? Is this guilt, remorse, stop, or simply rest?
FYI: I’ve gone back and studied Romans 11 a bit more in-depth and realize I plucked that verse right out of context. No wonder I wasn’t a Kay Arthur, who always proclaimed, “Context is king!!!” 😊 I now know and believe all Christians have a calling to serve Christ anywhere and everywhere.
But, you know? Honestly, I believe anyone in Christ can glean from periodically searching ourselves to discover if we are choosing life in Him rather than a substitute that offers merely length of days.
In the final years of my journey on this earth, however many or few, my earnest desire is to have a life worth living…not just length of days.
What about you?
…Now choose life, that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers…Deut. 30: 19b-20