I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…
Deuteronomy 30:19; from Deut 30:15-20, lectionary text for Sunday Feb. 16, 2020
Choose. That is the imperative I respond to tonight. Choose.
The full phrase is actually ‘choose life.’ It is embedded in a longer passage. Moses has been talking for 30 chapters, all the way from Deuteronomy 1, reminding God’s people of all God has been and done for them, of all they are called to do and to be in relation to God. Here, in his culminating peroration, Moses sets out the dual possibilities (prosperity and adversity; blessings and curses; life and death; Deut 30:15, 19), and crowns it all with this exhortation to choose life.
Choose, Moses says. The imperative resonates. Choosing is required of me. But I am tired. Bone-tired. Too tired to look again at the text, too tired to ponder it more, too tired to write what I wonder. The exhaustion is real, drags at my body, dulls my understanding. I need some undemanding activity. Reading words is too hard. Wording thoughts feels impossible.
Choose, Moses says. As if choosing is possible for me. As if I have agency. For all that I feel bound in my tiredness, burdened by To-Do’s yet undone, constrained by choices already made and carried out that have led to me here and, yes, tired.
Choose, Moses says. There is no better time than now — there’s no other time than now. You were tired yesterday and, honestly, you’ll be tired tomorrow too. Yes, you are living the sum of so many other choices already made — but so is everybody. Every single one of us has it so. We live now with the choices made yesterday and a year ago and a decade before that; we live the result of the choices that we made in those years past and the choices others made as well. It is a complicated web that connects and ties us all. And it is a web still being woven, threads untied and re-tied and new-spun into wider weaving.
Choose, Moses says. Choosing is required. Choosing is possible. The past has happened, yes, and I am here, and I am tired. Yet I am not ended, the web is not closed, the future is not determined. There is the next choice to be made and walked on into and through, and then the next after that. My agency is limited. The ultimate sum is beyond my control. But I can choose some of the addends. I can choose to resist exhaustion that comes so close to hopelessness. I can choose to persist in intentional effort. I can choose to read and to ponder and to write my wondering.
Choose, Moses says, granting me choice as both duty and as gift.
And, choosing the text, I find that my exhaustion recedes that bit. There’s energy gained as well as spent (none wasted) in the work of wording my wondering, energy come from imagining — hoping — that my words truly are resonating at the same frequency as the words of the text.
The energy ebbs. The tiredness is true, after all. But the effect of the resonance lingers even as I save the document, close my computer, ready for bed. I am allowed and able to choose.
Choose the work. Realize the life.