There are lots of different ways that people make decisions. There are those that carefully think and over think their every action. There are those who know exactly what they want, those who can’t decide, those who flip-flip and those who always tote a hardline. Sometimes we get to be the decision makers and other times we are disproportionately affected by the decisions made by those around us. Regardless, it’s often hard to know if you’re making a good choice. Did you go to the right school, join the right church, take the right job? Sometimes it feels as though I’ve made all of these seemingly insignificant choices and somehow ended up on this path- not necessarily the one that I set out on.
I watched a PBS documentary on Rwanda in a class at school recently. It’s a long video, so we’ve watched it over a few classes. Without going into too much detail, I can assure you that the genocide that occurred there in 1994 was some of the worst atrociries that humanity has ever seen. This documentary shows people hacking other people to death with machetes. It shows Kofi Anan and Madeline Albright expaining how they really didn’t know that 800,000 people had be systemically wiped out. It interviews a 12 year old girl who was the lone survivor of a masacure of hundreds of people in a church and stayed there, amongst the dead, for more than 40 days. The conflict in Rwanda was hell coming to earth.
Yet somehow, there were small bits of beauty in this documentary. It spoke of the ONE (literally, one) white, American who stayed in Kigali during the genocie…a Christian aid worker. He sent his family back to the U.S., but stayed himself because he believed it was the right thing to do. The documentary honoured a Senegalese UN soldier who singlehandedly, and secretly rescued hundreds of people. And then there was Romeo Delaire who stayed in Rwanda, even when his own organization betrayed him and the people of Rwanda. He stayed and faced the possibility that he might lose his life for something he believed in.
The heroes of the Rwandan genocide are good for my soul. As awful as it was to watch footage of bloated bodies float down rivers- there was still light in the darkness. There were people who were brave, couragous, selfless- there were heroes.
This takes me back to when I was talking about decisions. I’ve had an incredibly fortunate life thus far. I am lucky enough to be receiving high levels of education. I have it really good. But the thing is, I really want to do good things with my life- perhaps not to the extent of those I just spoke of, but I want to make a difference in the world…to be a part of new life, of good news, to restore humanity- I want in on that. And sometimes I wonder how or if any of that will happen. I wonder what next year will look life, or the next 10 years for that matter. I am wondering if how somehow being where I am now affects where I can go later.
But I’m learning that no matter what decisions we have made, or where we are now, how we got here , how long we’ve been here- none of this really matters. What matters is that God is the God of possibility, of new life, of unexpected goodness.
I have no idea what is coming my way next month- not to mention next year, or in five years. But I take comfort in the fact that I can never ‘decide’ myself into a situation where I’m too far gone to be used…and I can never get myself into a place where I am un-usable by God. As humans, I think that we think we have some sort of incredible predictive capacity for how something will turn out, or that we can somehow assume that we know what is coming next. I’m learning to be prepared for surprises- to know that doors will open that I have never even thought of- that things I thought I’d always do may never come to fruition. Regardless of how plans change or life surprises me, I take comfort in the fact that God is good, and knowing and that really, in the end- things work out.
Really, the root of what I am talking about is trust. Trust in the idea that I am not necessarily the maker of my own destiny. Trust that there is hope. Trust that it’s ok to not always know what is next or even what is right. Trust that there really isn’t a threshold by which we’ve “screwed up too much.”
I’m not saying that we should think lightly about the choices that come our way. Nor am I saying that everything always works out perfectly, or even great for that matter. We should use each moment and each choice to practice being others-focused, to love and to do good- but we can also rest in the fact that we’ve never gone to far down one path to change directions.