Dr. Seuss wrote a great little book titled Oh the Places You’ll Go, that is often gifted to graduates at this time of year. It starts out, “Congratulations, today is your day. You’re off to great places. You’re off and away. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
“You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
It’s up to us, says Dr. Seuss. The world is ours and we are free to choose what kind of life we will have. He even provides a warning: “You’ll look up and down streets, look ‘em over with care. About some, you will say, “I don’t choose to go there. With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.”
It sounds good. But we all know that we do not always choose well. A. Philip Parham tells about a minister who asked a person he was counseling if he had any difficulty making decisions. The man replied, “Well, yes, and no.”
Parham notes that the word intelligence comes from two words, inter, meaning “between” and legend, meaning “to choose.” An intelligent person is one who has learned to make choices, between good and bad, truth and lies, love and hate, gentleness and cruelty, life, and death. (Letting God: Christian Meditations for Recovering Persons, Harper: San Francisco, 1987).
Life is about making choices.
Professional speaker Phillip Wexler notes that the human being is the only creature on earth that is not programmed to behave in a set way. Birds instinctively go south for the winter. Beavers build dams. Fish swim in schools. Only humans have the complex power to decide. Unfortunately, we do not always make good decisions.
A customer in a bakery was seen carefully examining all the beautiful pastries displayed in trays in the glass cases.
A clerk approached him and asked, “What would you like?”
The customer answered, “I’d like that chocolate-covered cream-filled doughnut, that jelly doughnut, and the cheese Danish.”
Then with a sigh, he added, “But I’ll take an oat-bran muffin.”
What is it that we are attracted to that is bad for us especially when we know that making bad choices can sometimes be disastrous?
When we were in Italy a few years ago, we visited Pompeii, a fascinating city that had been excavated after the volcano of Mount Vesuvius had swept ash and lava over the city. When Pompeii was being excavated, they found a woman’s body. Her body had been preserved by the ashes. This woman’s feet were turned toward the city gate, toward safety, but her face was turned backward. She was looking back toward something that was just beyond her outstretched hands. The archaeologists wondered what she was looking for. As they dug, they found a bag of pearls. Maybe she dropped this bag of pearls as she ran for her life. Maybe someone else dropped them, and this lady saw the chance for instant wealth. But, one way or another, with her life on the line, she thought it was worthwhile to stop and pick up some pearls. She turned back to pick them up and the volcanic ash swept over her. What a terrible choice. But we humans make many costly choices that affect our lives and families, our health, and our peace of mind. Anything that causes you to hurt yourself or someone else is likely to be a bad choice. (JohnGerike, http://www.goodshepherdluthean.com/files/sermons.sermon 060827.pdf.)
A prominent psychologist named William Glasser wrote a helpful book about dealing with bad choices called, Positive Addiction. Usually, when we think of addiction we think in negative terms. But Glasser noted that there are some activities, however, that we can become addicted to that will result in positive benefits for ourselves and others. You can become addicted to all kinds of positive activities. Glasser listed such things as gardening, juggling, exercise, creative writing, and knitting. Just about anything can become a positive addiction if it is something you do faithfully, if it benefits those around you, and if it does not cause you to neglect other positive activities you ought to be involved in (Harper & Row, 1976). During this pandemic time, I hope you’ve found some positive addictions to help you through it.
The best addiction is servanthood to God. It means daily making choices that are in keeping with God’s will for wholeness and health. It means choosing daily, with God’s help, attitudes and actions that bring mental and physical health and helping make the world a better place.
Olympic swim coach Daniel F. Chambliss put it like this: “Great accomplishments, we assume that great people require heroic motivation: an intense desire to be the best, an inner strength beyond all measure, some special love of school, of family, of country. However, it turns out that “world-class athletes get to the top level by making a thousand little decisions morning and night. If you make the right choice on each of these, decide to get up and go to practice, decide to work hard today, decide to volunteer to do an extra event to help your team, then others will say you have dedication. But it is only in the doing of those little things, all taken together, that makes that dedication. Great athletes aren’t made in the long run; they are made every day.” (W. B. Freeman, The Little Book of Olympic Inspiration (Tulsa: Trade Life, 1996, p.139)
Choosing Christ invariably helps us make better choices. That’s the one reason the Christian faith has stood the test of time. When people give their lives to Christ they become better parents, they become better citizens, they live happier, more fulfilled lives.
The important thing is to make your faith the most important part of your life. Studies show that people who are strongly connected to God tend to have a more fulfilling life due to their commitment. But beyond that, they are assured of eternal life with God.
The Apostle Paul, in this passage about God’s grace, explains God’s gift of eternal life in Christ. Or, as Dr. Seuss says, “Congratulations, today’s your day. You’re off to great places. You’re off and away. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
And with God’s gracious help, you can!
Please pray with me. Dear God, May grace abound in our lives. May we refrain from sin and find our hope and our purpose in you.
In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.