One of the new skills I have acquired this Covid-season is doing the weekly shop online – not of choice I hasten to add! When I first started to use the service back in March of last year, it was really quite basic, but better than nothing. As time has gone on it has improved significantly with a broader range of products available. Yet, it isn’t the same as going into a supermarket and going around with a trolley. You don’t have the same choice by any means and you aren’t able to choose the actual item you buy.
This is one of many examples of the way in which our choices have been significantly affected during the Pandemic. Choices which we took entirely for granted before. Sometimes, we still don’t have a choice – I can’t buy bunched carrots, for some strange reason; at other times our choices are more restricted – I can however buy chantenay carrots or ‘ordinary’ carrots!
This curtailment of our choices has led me anew to a greater appreciation of the choices we had and still continue to enjoy, after all does it really matter that I can’t have bunched carrots? To have a choice, any choice, is actually a privilege. So many people across the world don’t have any choices, they are told what to do, and / or are simply unable to do anything different. That is such a different world to my experience, and it has to be a good thing to have a better appreciation of my privileged position.
Every privilege however brings responsibilities. We have a responsibility when it comes to making our choices. It is true when it comes to my rather frivolous example of which carrots I buy. There are a whole raft of considerations which could or should be applied to guide my choice. More significantly, there are so many choices set before us as to how we live our life – what we do and what we don’t do.
Even when we think very carefully about the choice laid before us, it can be very difficult to decide which course we actually follow. I’m sure that I’ve said before during this Pandemic, that I have frequently really struggled to know what to do ‘for the best’, let alone ‘the right thing’ to do. That continues to be the case. When we have to weigh up competing and sometimes conflicting considerations, how do we decide what to do? It can be extremely difficult, knowing that our conscience will be uneasy whatever we decide. Yet we do have to make a decision.
Once we have concluded how we ought to respond, our ability to adhere to it and to see it to fruition is another thing altogether! We will encounter many other choices and more decisions have to be made. As we proceed, we may doubt that we have made the right choice, but it may be too late to turn back. That said, sometimes we have to admit that we have got it wrong and start afresh. None of us are infallible. It is so important to be honest with ourselves at all times, and not allow us to deceive ourselves and be led astray.
We are fortunate that we have sound teaching and guidance as to how we ought to live our lives. We know the theory and our challenge is to put it in to practice in how we live our life. We are encouraged that our life is capable of being a beautiful thing when we get it ‘right’, and we are equally encouraged that we are supported when we get it ‘wrong’ but with the best of intentions.
Perhaps it is the intention behind our choices which is most important, and not the consequences of our choices. There is a limit as to how much control we have in any given situation, but if we act with the best of intentions what more can we do? Intentions alone are not enough, they have to lead to some action, and we have significantly greater influence over our intentions than we do over the consequences of our actions or otherwise.
My grandmother always told me that eating carrots would help me see in the dark! The challenge we face in this life is to see the path of light through the darkness. While we keep an eye on the horizon and the end of the journey, we realise that the choices we make now have both immediate consequences, and long term consequences in the future, a point in time not as clear as the present. We can only make our choices based on where we are, trusting and entrusting that ultimately those higher and greater purposes will be achieved through our thoughts, words and actions.
This hymn is probably the best known Welsh hymn translated not only in to English, but many other languages. Originally entitled by William Williams, Pantycelyn (1717-91) as ‘A prayer for strength to journey through the wilderness of the world’ it speaks of the pilgrim’s progress through the journey of life, seeking God’s guidance to make the ‘right’ choices and follow the prepared path. It draws heavily on the imagery of the long and difficult journey of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, through the wilderness, until they finally arrive at the Promised Land. Popular at Rugby internationals, the words are well worth careful consideration.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven,
Bread of heaven
Feed me now and evermore;
Feed me now and evermore.
Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing waters flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through.
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises,
Songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee;
I will ever give to Thee.
I offer this prayer:
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldst have us to do; that thy Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble. Amen.