01 Jan 2017
Another new year has dawned, and no doubt all of us have engaged in the same mind game, wishing and persuading ourselves that on the stroke of midnight of 31 December, things would somehow be better going forward. We know that this annual ritual is irrational, but we collectively indulge ourselves anyway, with fireworks all the world over, because life cannot be lived without hope.
I am no less a hope addict than anybody else, but this new year held special significance for me as it signals the half-century mark of my sojourning on earth. Again, nothing substantially changes just because one hits 50, but it is a sobering reminder of one’s mortality, as well as a good vantage point to look back on 5 decades of existence.
The irony of life is that when you are young, you have all the energy and time but lack sufficient wisdom to capitalise fully on them, and when you are old, you have a better idea how to live well, but you are short on energy and time. If only we could have the body of a 15-year-old with the experience of a 50-year-old, that would be just perfect!
The course of our lives is shaped by two sets of factors, one obvious and another most people are not consciously aware of. The first set is made up of the crucial decisions we make, like the choices we make about our studies, career, life partner, church and faith. These are forks in the road and we are forced to take our pick; each time we pick one option over others, we exclude certain possibilities and we define in greater focus our destination. Hence, my life would look totally different today if I had not surrendered myself to Christ at 13, attended a particular Christian youth fellowship, studied and chosen to practise law, married Juliana, started Brighton Community Church and gone into full-time Christian ministry. Because these are such obviously life-defining events, we agonise, pray and plan carefully before acting, as we rightly ought to.
The second set consists of the way we choose to live and interact with our environment and neighbours. Instead of major decisions, they have to do with our consistent response to the matters that we encounter day to day. What I choose to eat for a single meal does not have much of a bearing on my health, but the pattern of my diet choices over the course of a decade would have a major impact. Whether I exercise today has a negligible effect on my physical well-being, but the sedentary lifestyle that most of us adopt will very likely kill us before our time. Either way, my disposition towards generosity or selfishness in the way I manage my resources will have a profound influence on my life and relationships over time. Skipping church on a particular Sunday may seem like no big deal, but the accumulated results of your attendance or absence will affect you powerfully.
These tiny choices that we continually make are not obvious forks in the road. Rather, they represent the general orientation of our life journey. Because they do not appear as critical as the major decisions that we have to make, we tend to be unintentional about them, at great cost to ourselves. They will not just bring us to our destination. They will shape our destiny.