This story continues from part one of this blog series and teaches us something extremely important: the power of choice. As teenagers, we are learning and practicing what it means to choose.
Sometimes the choices that life presents to us can be very difficult, and sometimes they boil down to something as simple as a personal preference. Which sport to play in high school? Which classes to take? Which friend group to hang out with? Where to get a summer job? Who to “like” and “follow” on Facebook?
The teenage years are the time when we begin to define ourselves by our choices. Believe it or not, the decisions we make now will define who we will become; they will create our identities. But what if the choice is much more serious than just simply which sport to play in school or who to follow on social media? Small choices begin to add up. Think about the boy in the story. What choices did he make to end up the way he did?
In an ancient document written by some of the earliest followers of Yeshua, the opening line reads, “There are two ways: one of life and one of death; however, there is a great difference between the two ways.” This book talks all about two paths in life; it is called the Didache, (pronounced DID-a-kay). The first path is one of life, while the second is one of death. The difference between the two is great. But how are we to know what each path looks like? If a person makes a negative choice, does that mean he or she is restricted to walking on the path of death?
The Bible says in Deuteronomy, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
What does choosing life mean? As we mature, we will find that even our little choices eventually build up. These can be both negative and positive, but each choice does matter. Remember what the boy in the story said? “I put these shackles on myself; I bound my hands, and I covered my eyes.”
Of course, this is allegorical language, but take a moment to consider what kinds of small choices would have brought the boy to that horrible place.
Perhaps we make a “small” choice in life to participate in bullying a classmate just once, or we decide to say hurtful words to our parents, or we choose to be selfish, or we intentionally make others feel bad, or we show meanness to our siblings. These choices all lead to more negative choices.
Some of these negative choices can be serious and have deep consequences, like becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol or getting tangled up in viewing online pornography regularly. These choices begin to define our hearts; they capture our thoughts and eventually lead us to places of hopelessness and bondage to further sins. This path leads us to shame and guilt, which place unseen burdens on our shoulders that are often too heavy for us to bear. We then blindfold ourselves so as not to have to look at our own shame.
Yeshua says that he is the bread of life, and the Psalms say that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. Chasing after God with our whole hearts will lead us down the path to light. Going down a path of negativity will lead us further and further from God’s light until we find ourselves in complete spiritual darkness.
Talking to God, praying to him, and reading his words will keep us on the path of light. Choosing positive friends, surrounding ourselves with good influences, and getting involved in a healthy, godly community are incredibly important in helping us choose light:
I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 11:26‒28)
The choices we have in front of us will be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes we make wrong choices and learn from them, and then we make a new choice to return to the path of light, where we experience HaShem’s great forgiveness. Our Father embraces us and sets us free from being slaves to our sins.
But in our free will, in our choices, we also have to choose to stay on the path of light and the path of righteousness. #dontgetlostoutthere