If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,…
~ Deuteronomy 30: 17 – 19
About 9 years ago, I made a very difficult decision. I did not arrive at that point easily. Struggling and agonizing, I wanted to choose what was right, but fear and doubt were like storms inside of me, blinding and deafening me. It reached a peak on Christmas Day. On a day when I should have been happy and rejoicing, I was instead quaking with fear over an obligatory phone call I had to make. It wasn’t just this one time. Over the years, such calls had assumed a troubling pattern. Preceded by fear and of being sick to the stomach. Crushing relief when it was over. Despite my torment each time, it never occurred to me that such a dark and debilitating fear is a sign of something very wrong indeed.
But something changed that Christmas Day. We had returned to my husband’s hometown and towards evening, I went out with my husband for a short drive around town with our toddlers and baby. We had taken an old, almost forgotten route, lined by worn homesteads and poor roads. Here and there, we saw people gathered in gentle pockets among old-fashioned flowers and trees, friends and neighbours finding any reason for an evening chat, as children pooled together in the warmth and cheer of simple, country games. People looked up as we drove by, and in their curious yet even gaze, I sensed friendliness, an uncommon acceptance and love.
As we left that little village behind us, I returned to my present, to that dark fear. Suddenly, my heart saw what I hadn’t before: the wrongness of it all. In that little village in our rear view mirror was life as it should be. Even though I knew not a single one of those simple villagers, it was clear to my spirit that we had just passed through a place where, despite poverty and its attendant woes, hearts resolutely chose life.
The minute we arrived back at my in-laws’ house, I made a decision that would forever change my life and that of my young family. I decided I would not make that dreaded call and that I would never call again. It was never a question of sealing my heart against others. It was a decision to walk away from almost 40 years of worshipping at the altar of fear.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,…
you will live… ~ Deuteronomy 30: 16
Today, for some reason, someone has brought back to me that old evening of 9 years before. So that I would understand clearly what I hadn’t before: that in decisively choosing to reject the idol of fear, I had actually obeyed the first Commandment – I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.
And that when I chose His Commandment, I chose life.