I went to the ER with chest pain this morning. It had been bugging me on and off for a couple of months and, finally at the urging of my own mother, I went to get it checked.
After a comprehensive series of tests, I am grateful to report the pain is just stress. No surprise. And I am grateful to now be able to put all the evil whispers in my head to rout. (I also had to laugh fyi. You know you’re a mom when you go to the ER with chest pain — and you’re just grateful they let you lie down somewhere for five hours.)
I learned a couple of things while there: daytime TV is an adjacent universe; and waiting on a gurney gives you a lot of time to think.
Reflecting on my life, I was thinking about choices. Particularly how every choice comes with stakes, and how our decision to pick one way or the other depends on what we understand to be weighing in the balance.
This year, I have (reluctantly but resolutely) chosen divorce. The hard thing about divorce is that looking back on our history, of course it is not all bad. I wasn’t out of my mind when I married him. We loved each other, and there were a lot of happy times. A lot of laughter, a lot of fun. But what were the stakes for me if I stayed?
Could I stay in the marriage to “keep” my Christian vows, when the covenant had been broken on the other side? What model would I then be giving my children? “Well, Mum’s great and she never had a problem with it”? I couldn’t do that.
On the other hand, there’s the very sober reality of what choosing divorce will entail. Only I could decide if being a single mom raising two children alone would be a better option than the married life I had. Truly only I could make that call, and I did because I have never doubted I could make it on my own. But that’s me.
I have a friend who is hoping her marriage will heal after repeated adultery. If this were me, I would ask myself, “This covenant is way broken! Why would I want him back?” But, for her, the stakes are different.
It all depends on what is in your scales, which all depends on your perspective in life.
For me, since becoming a Christian in my twenties, I have experienced God’s Word to be true. I know that He knows the plans He has for each one of us, plans to give us hope and a future. And those plans for us in human relationship are intended to reflect the human/divine bond. Respect, sacrificial love, willing the best for the other (even at the expense of oneself, because God has that in hand already).
I chose divorce when I finally knew the choice had been made for me. I couldn’t sustain the marriage alone. I don’t mean mansions and money and comfort. I mean respect, honor, honesty, co-partnering and submission to God. After years of trying, I realized our tide was in fact going the other way. I was – in effect – already on my own.
Choices depend on three things: what options are available, what lies in the scales (i.e. the stakes), and your given perspective of expectation. Don’t you think?
Lying in the ER today, I caught some program called “Is it your baby?” Wow. That’s some intense stuff. But, if I thought that it was really just me against “him”, and this was my one shot in a universe at random and only I alone could define my own worth… Fair enough. I think I’d possibly be doing that too (only perhaps not on television).
Balancing your choices comes down to your frame of reference. For me, God’s love provides a template to lay over my life to see where the line of blessing lies, and where I’m outside of it. Without that template, I could only be guessing with the frame of reference I had been given by my parents/community/life experience.
Now in my case, that was a church community and believing parents. But what if I came from a different background? What if my mom was in prison for killing my dad? My scales would be strikingly different. Not a “turn the other cheek” world, but a “dog eat dog” world. And who could blame me?
I was faced with working out what choice really means last week when good friends asked me to write letters of encouragement to their teenage twin sons setting out in life. I have great affection and respect for the parents, but I don’t know the kids. What was I going to write?
As we know, the bullshit-ometer is never stronger than in the teenage years. So I wasn’t going to pretend I could speak to them particularly, I could only share what my understanding of life had evolved into being over my 49 years thus far.
Once I’d ruled out everything I couldn’t say, I realized all I could say was this: Seek truth, and don’t stop seeking until you find it. Not truth that changes with fashion and the seasons, but a universal truth that does not change. Truth in front of us every moment, that we can actually live by. A plumb-line, an absolute truth which can be found, does not change, and makes sense of your own experience in the world.
If there is such a thing as absolute truth – and I have discovered there is – it is something you can found your life upon. Truth is the only scale which can tell me where balance really lies. By the One who made the scales in the first place.
The key for each human life must be to hear that absolute truth really exists, and so is definitely worth finding. That we are not in some existential fog – whatever you find first is good enough – but that there is a genuine frame to our existence.
So I thought, as I lay on my gurney solving the problems of the world, the ultimate challenge for each human life must be to not rest until one discovers what that real frame of existence is. And thereby to discover what gets the balance right.