I’ve long been fascinated by the idea that the choices we make each day are individual footsteps down a path, be it one towards life and light or another towards darkness and destruction. Donner’s voiceover gets at those times we remember and can point to where something happened and the choices we made were significant steps on those paths. But many of those more significant choices, events or circumstances come on the heels of a sea of ordinary days filled with smaller, seemingly less significant ones—and the choices we make in response to events and circumstances in that ordinariness are just as significant. It certainly doesn’t seem that way in mundane moments, and it doesn’t usually feel like the everyday, small choices we make are all that significant. But they are; they are steps down a path that helps make us who we are.
There are a handful of days in everyone’s life that they can point to and say, “That day changed me. That day helped make me who I am.” They usually happen on big event days, the day you get married, the day you have your first kid, the day you land on Venus. But they can also happen on regular days, in unlikely moments, with events that may seem like nothing at the time . . . or they’re so huge that they literally take your breath away.
~Maddox Donnor’s voiceover in “Venus,” the next to last episode of Defying Gravity.
In my life, I’ve learned that how we respond to the people, events and circumstances we encounter every day is a good indicator of what path we are on. In Luke’s account of Jesus, Jesus is telling a vast sea of people how life works. “To you who are ready for the truth,” he says, it’s all about loving with the love you are loved by. Love your enemies—and live generously. “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” And do it without expecting anything in return. “Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst.” And “Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." But don’t just stand there agreeing with my words, Jesus essentially says: “work the words into your life.” Root deep. Be a tree that bears good fruit, not diseased fruit. Be the carpenter who builds his house on a firm foundation so that when trouble comes—and it will come—you won’t be shaken.
If each day we work with God to work Jesus' truth deep into our lives and into the smaller choices, when the bigger ones come we’ll know what to do. Yes, there will be days that we step off that path, but I take heart in Henri Nouwen’s advice: “You must expect setbacks and regressions. Don’t say to yourself, 'All is lost. I have to start all over again.' This is not true. What you have gained, you have gained…. But try to think about it instead as being pulled off the road for a while. When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started.”
And those moments, they too are the days that change us.