Sunday, November 20, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

To tree or not to tree, that is the question. --- Thomas ShakesFear

It’s Thanksgiving week again --- already. Where does the time go? I wish I could spend Thanksgiving Day with relatives or friends, especially this year I think they may need my presence, but I’ll probably spend it here with mom. Her caregiver usually asks for holidays off to be with her family, and I always agree. I guess it’s right for me to be with mom and give thanks with her, although she no longer remembers any prayers, nor even the day. So I’ll celebrate and give thanks alone. Some things you just do because they’re right, not that you get any personal pleasure from them. And I think that, perhaps, these are some of the hardest things we do, discerning and then acting to do what we know is right.

Remember a few weeks back, the bare little plant I brought into the house, bare because I left it out in the cold too long? I displayed a picture of it here, bare-branched except for a single flower, which seemed to indicate it was happy to be in out of the cold.

Well look at it now. New leaves are emerging as it sits in the East-facing window, enjoying the morning light; perhaps it may be blooming again soon. But before then it will be time to replace it in the window with the Christmas tree (Good grief!! It seems like I just took it down yesterday!) When I put up the Christmas tree, I will relegate the plant to a dark corner in the dining room. I think it may be sad there (in part because I often forget to water it there).

What to do? Decisions, decisions. I enjoy coming home to see the Christmas tree each night, and all the ornaments with the many memories associated with each one. But I don’t enjoy putting the tree up, nor the outside lights for that matter. There are so many other “Christmas things” to do. Outside, I enjoy seeing the lights, and the tree brightly lit in the living room window, but do my neighbors really enjoy the display as they pass by, and do they think on why I celebrate so? (And what do they think as the display typically stays up through the winter, since I don’t like taking it down either.)

I enjoy the Christmas tree and lights, but perhaps no one else does, or at least certainly not as much as I. Living alone, no one comes to my house; inside the decorations give me joy, but they are a joy for me alone. And then there’s that little plant, now happily growing in the sunlight. I’ll get my selfish joys, while it goes into the corner. Decisions, decisions.

I wrote a few days ago about how God sometimes sends us pains and sorrows, His chastisements to teach us, or His testing of what we say we believe. And I discussed our reactions, and our need to trust in Him. But this discussion about the tree and plant, focused on things which make me happy reminds me about another question: Can God trust us? When God decides to send us sorrows beyond our control, the question is: Do we trust His decision, that this is a good thing even if we don’t understand why He sends us pain? But God gives us freedom, and often things happen to us, even bad things, which are not sent by God but happen because of our choices. Much of our life is not beyond our control, but is the result of our decisions.

When God decides to send us something, we are challenged: Do we trust His decision? When we decide something, however, the question is: Can God trust our decision? He taught us, sent His only Son to show us, and sends us graces to help us, but will we choose to do the right thing when faced with a decision, or will we choose to do the right thing --- for us? That is the real decision we often face. Can God trust us?

It’s hard enough for us to not eat a piece of candy when we’re on a much-needed diet, especially when no one else is around, but there are so many bigger decisions we face every day when we consider what is good for our neighbor versus what is good for us. We see so many examples of people who choose to love themselves first --- all we need to do is look at our elected officials for examples of that. They act as if we elected them for the purpose of getting them rich. It’s rare to see them making an unselfish decision. In fact, we see so many examples of selfish actions it almost seems as if that IS the right action: Me first, why not?

We all face those decisions almost every day: Do we love our neighbor first, or ourselves? God taught us, sent His Son to give us example, and gives us daily graces to make the right decision, but can He trust us to decide rightly? And while we daily face these decisions of me versus my neighbor, there also comes into our lives, on occasion, even more difficult decisions, life and death decisions not of do I love myself more than my neighbor, but do I love myself more than God.

We will all die; our life’s trip will end. And for each of us God waits at the final station, a heaven of joy forever, us and God together. Yet some of us are reluctant to leave this world when our journey is ending. We’re not totally sure God and happiness are waiting there. We trust in this life, even with its pains that we so often see, and we so quickly forget blessed are they who have not seen, yet believed. And for some of us who are still on our journey, we only reluctantly let friends and family complete theirs. We know they will obtain eternal happiness and yet we wail: “But I won’t be happy with them gone.” Ah, how easily we forget the right decision at that point: and so we choose to pray for our own happiness versus theirs --- and the God who waits for them.

We all face those very difficult decisions at some time in our life. Choosing to put our happiness aside and be happy with others’ happiness (and God’s will) is so difficult a decision that that it has been given a unique word in all human languages to describe it. It is called “love”.

There are so many things for me to do this Christmas, and this year in particular there are so many in need that I should find a way to remember. I think I’ll focus on them this Christmas and forego my pleasure of the Christmas tree and the outside lights. It’s a small thing to give up, and at least my little plant will be happy with it. And perhaps even God will be happy with my decision, as I try to focus on imitating Him this season and the example He came to earth to give us: an example of how to love, how to really love.

Love: It’s a decision, not an emotion.

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