August 9, 2006

All About Choice

2006 1522 page5 capany of the road races I run throughout the year have a “wheelchair division,” a category for competitors who don’t have the use of their legs. They, like many runners, often wear T-shirts with some kind of humorous or inspirational saying stenciled across the back (to entertain those of us they pass, I suppose).
At one race, a wheelchair competitor wore a T-shirt with a message I hope I’ll never forget. It said simply: “The last day I had a choice, I went for a run.”
Life is all about choices, isn’t it? The choices we make in certain situations set off a series of chain reactions that affect other areas of our lives. I rise fairly early to go for a run. That means I have to go to bed at an hour that will guarantee me a good night’s sleep. When I was younger I used to eat as much as I wanted because I knew that my running would burn a certain amount of calories. But now, as my metabolism has slowed, as well as the speed at which I run, I have to be more careful about how much I eat.

When we become followers of Christ, He doesn’t just claim one day out of seven, or one tenth of our income—He claims our entire lives. We’re not just stewards of His money; we’re stewards of all the blessings He’s granted us—our health being perhaps the most significant.

2006 1522 page5Years ago Adventists were blessed by counsel that, according to National Geographic (Nov. 2005) makes Adventists (at least the ones in Loma Linda, California) one of the longest-lived people on earth.
Yet most of us have to admit that life’s choices make it harder and harder to live balanced, Christ-centered lives. We may not use tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, or eat “unclean” foods, but our infatuation with worldly values often leads us to neglect the very principles that promise physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Is it really important to have one of those cell phones that takes digital photos and downloads music videos and movie trailers? Is a house in the suburbs (with its humongus mortgage) so necessary as to spend one twelfth of your day (or more) commuting to and from it? Is it truly profitable to be so wired to cell phones, e-mail, and the Internet that even when you’re at home you’re still “at the office”? Is your idea of a “family outing” going to the mall? How we answer these questions reflects the values we’ve chosen.
In most industrialized countries the temptation to cram too much activity into too little time is epidemic. Society conspires to persuade us that we’re just not fulfilled if we don’t have the latest gadgets, gizmos, or other diversions advertised in magazines, on television, and over the Internet. At some point—sooner rather than later—we need to step back and remember God’s prescription for wholeness.
1. Take care of yourself physically. This includes eating well (at proper times and in proper amounts), exercising, and getting plenty of rest.
2. Take care of yourself emotionally. Cultivate a positive attitude. Practice a sense of humor; life is not all that serious, nor should it be. Surround yourself with people who are upbeat and cheerful. Reserve quality time for family members and close friends. Several times a week do something for someone or some group that is worse-off than you are. The change in perspective will do you good.
3. Take care of yourself spiritually. In a 24/7 society the first casualty is true spirituality. The Sabbath, properly observed, is one way to restore balance by recharging our spiritual reserves. But it does no good to cram the 24 hours of the Sabbath with as much activity as the other six days of the week—even if those activities are designed to honor God and serve others. Remember, the primary purpose of the Sabbath is worship, rest, and fellowship.
Everyday we’re faced with a myriad of choices. We like to think that tomorrow’s good choices will make up for today’s marginal ones. But all we have for certain is today (and sometimes we can’t even count on that). So choose well and live well. Don’t wait for tomorrow to start making smart choices.

Stephen Chavez is managing editor of the Adventist Review.