When I crossed the state line into Georgia, my backseat packed with everything I owned, I dialed the number of the soon-to-be roommates I barely knew.
My chest pounding, I was choking on sobs, gasping for breath.
I no longer wanted to be the person I had been.
Those girls prayed me through the rest of the drive to the house that would soon become my home.
All throughout that drive the words of a man I barely knew weighed heavily on my mind, “Whatever you do next, choose life.”
A warning, a calling, a word that would never leave my mind.
It changed the course of everything, because all I had known in the season beforehand was choosing everything else.
Those next few years, life bloomed around me and I saw what it meant to make that choice and to live fully. Those girls who prayed me home became my closest friends. I still talk to them weekly, and we still pray each other into places of life when we can’t catch our breath.
I think about those words often, and what my life might have been if I hadn’t heard them or hadn’t obeyed.
I might have gone other places entirely, lost my way, lived with a permanently broken heart. I might have married the wrong man, never forgiven, never learned how to stand up for the right things.
But sometimes I step back into dead places and I choose the wrong things. Still, I stumble back into worlds of wanting to choose complacency and comfort. There are times when the process of “choosing life” seems painful and intimidating.
Because there are times when “life” means digging, upheaval, uprooting, re-planting. It means the loss of things that I’m not quite ready to grieve.
Life, if I choose it, may just mean the removal of something I once loved, that once fed me. It may also mean the acceptance of failure; that I have to dig up things that didn’t grow like I once dreamed.
“There’s a time to let go.”
When I first got to Georgia, someone told me those words when I asked him how to bear the weight of the pain I was carrying. He read verses in Ecclesiastes to me and then sighed, “If there’s a time for everything, I suspect there’s a time to let go.”
After that, he would spend months trying to convince me to cut ties with someone he knew was still pulling strings behind the scenes.
Now I know what he was really saying was: “choose life”. Choose to let go of the dead things.
I couldn’t see it, but he saw it. I finally see it now. I drug the dead weight across those state lines; my arms were screaming in pain, my heart and limbs crying out for relief.
But still, I would go on to spend summers after making promises I couldn’t keep, and letting those same hands pull the strings that entangled me.
I didn’t know then, but I know now, life is the choice we get to make when the soil is hard, the plant is withered, the roots brittle and there’s nothing firm left to keep it living.
We can choose to sit with the dead, the brittle, the withered, the thing that will never feed us again. Or we can start over and choose life. Though it might hurt to dig it up and start from the beginning, if we choose life, we have a chance to hold, to share, something full and beautiful again.