For 14 years I led an Alzheimer's Disease (AD) support group at our hospital for caregivers, most of them being family members. We all learned together in those days, because the awareness of AD was just surfacing and formal printed instructions were scarce. Thus, we leaned on each other for helps and know-how.
AD victims go through phases as the disease progresses. Many arrive at a time when they become difficult and even combative or at least obstinate. How to gain their cooperation while helping with their daily hygiene and basic self-care was a huge issue. But someone posed a solution that often resolved the problem: CHOICES.
For instance, instead of TELLING an AD victim to brush their teeth or to take a shower, the caregiver instead would ASK, "Do you want to brush your teeth first or take your shower?" Most often, the AD person selected their preference and cooperated with their bathing and oral hygiene without much resistance because they had a voice in what they did and the order in which they did it. Choice. They felt they were still in charge!
Many years ago while I worked on a hospital mental health unit, a very large young man walked up to the nurses' station and threatened to wipe out all of us...and he could have! We were obvious victims-to-happen! While several of us talked with the patient and tried to calm him down, our male nurse quietly went to the medicine room and drew up the shot prescribed for this man if he became agitated.
Les walked with syringe in hand to the patient who was leaning over the desk threateningly and asked him, "Do you want your shot here or in your room?"
The patient replied, "Here."
So Les asked him, "Do you want it in your arm or in your hip?"
"In my arm."
Les gave the man the medication that quickly calmed him.
Giving the young dude a choice prevented his later embarrassment had he exploded. It erased the need to call security to take down an enraged, out-of-control man. It allowed peace and geniality to prevail among all of us. Choice. The guy felt that he had some control in the situation even when he couldn't control himself.
One last example of the grace of choice stems from our summer camp program for middle and high school students. It's difficult to know the likes and dislikes of kids when planning their lunch, the highlight of the day for many who come from disadvantaged homes. Some foods are unfamiliar to them and even fearsome, yet mealtime is intended to be a happy, social occasion.
We try for uniformity is what we offer, so all receive the same meal. Sometimes, however, desserts are an issue. Some of the kids prefer cookies above anything else. Others like chocolate, no matter how it is prepared, while several want only vanilla. Most frequently, cookies became one of their choices every day. The rest vary, day by day. That way, everyone is happy and their meal is more satisfying and complete.
Choices. So important, yet so woven into our lives that we're hardly aware we make them as we hasten through our day. We take them for granted. Yet, the choices we make all the time are determined by our priorities. They give us control over our immediate and future happenings. They are the privilege of living in a free society. We get to choose where we live, what school we attend, what job we work at and even who we marry. We control our choices. The word 'choice' implies just that.
While all choices matter greatly and determine the route our lives take from childhood to old age, one more choice we make determines where we will spend eternity. It is the most important choice we ever make and decides how we walk day by day through life.
The apostle John wrote about Jesus:
"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" John 1:11-12.
God gives us a choice, too. We can either receive His son, Jesus, as our redemption for our sins, or reject Him. He leaves that decision up to us. God does not force us to listen to and obey Him. Just like the AD patient who doesn't want to be forced to do something, God uses no weapon against us to make us follow and obey Him. He does not treat us like puppets or slaves, but He freely gives us the choice: My Son or not.
He does not force us to receive Jesus, but saves us the embarrassment of revolting against Him by giving us the choice of taking His as our savior, much as the mental health patient got to do.
Just like the kids at lunch, He gives us the choice between the sweetness of Himself or the sweetness sin offers. We can choose which 'sweet' we want, but, unlike lunch dessert, we can make the right or wrong choice. Ultimately, we either choose eternity in heaven with God, or we opt for hell without Him, where we will be separated from Goodness forever!
The Bible cautions and encourages us:
"Taste and see that the Lord is good" Psalm 34:8.
His sweetness compares not at all to the temporary saccharin of the devil's sin...counterfeit sweetness. God's sweetness is unlike anything else you've tasted in life, and the more you savour, the more you want of Him.
Do not fall for the devil's lies and temptations. Do not believe him! Choose Jesus to be your savior from from sin and then give Him all of you to love and honor Him forever. That is the choice that faces you. Only you can decide the outcome...and remember, the wrong decision is irreversible forever!