I chose this subject today because of the journey my life has been on. Some people call our choices “a fork in the road,” I call them lily pads of God’s grace We’re going to get into a subject today that I discovered in my research is apparently a highly debated topic. Not sure why that shocks me, but I will admit, I was surprised to see the level of discussion that was out there in the ether. I’m referring to Free Will.
From as early as I can remember, I was labeled a very independent child. Being the first-born, that is a common characteristic. But, my independent actions seemed to always be a bit more on the extreme side than some. I can equally associate my independence with my own understanding of free will. For me, this is both a spiritual and logical topic. Rest assured, I am no scholar and this podcast will go nowhere near the territory of a debate. But, I do want to try and get you to acknowledge and recognize for your own self, where you stand on this topic.
Spiritually, my knowing of free will comes from how I was brought up. From the age of 6 weeks old, I was raised in the church. Went everywhere I could with my father who was a youth minister, helping people, seeing people’s struggles and victories. Logically, I began to equate those experiences, which include my own, as matter of choice.
I was probably 4 or 5 years old and we were in Ridgecrest, NC at a church event. I remember being a bit rambunctious, excitedly running down a hill, I had worked up too much speed and fell and skinned my knee. At the age of almost 50 now, I still have that scar. I remember the spray my mom used and the pain that it caused. I remember being mad at myself for not listening to my mom when she told me to slow down. While I probably didn’t understand consciously what free will was at that time, I can assure you, I distinctly remember that I knew that boo-boo on my knee, was my fault. Clearly, I didn’t choose to bludgeon my knee, but I did choose to ignore my mother and I did decide to go running down the hill.
Why people feel the need to debate free will boggles me. To claim we are programmed completely contradicts the story of Adam and Eve in the bible. If we are prewired, then how are we any different than the animals that walk this planet? For those animal lovers out there, I’m not saying that animals don’t have emotions. I know first-hand that my Stella girl has mostly happy days, but it’s very clear, to me, when she’s not her “normal” happy pit bull self. Thomas, my German Shepherd on the other hand, he’s mostly pretty stoic most of the time, but I know how to push his happy buttons so he can relax and play.
Sorry, I digress. If we are prewired, then how does one explain the fact that someone who is raised with love and all their financial and emotional needs met, ends up in rehab? Diversely, how does one who was molested, beaten and watched their parent be murdered, make something of themselves and contribute to the betterment of society?
Let’s look at some choices that have shaped our world:
- What if Google had decided to sell in the beginning versus building their own culture? Where would we be? Now you can be on either side of that debate, but there is no dispute that their choice to build a culture has had a major impact on the entire world.
- What if Rosa Parks would have decided to comply and sit at the back of the bus? She didn’t. She refused and made a declaration, I won’t sit at the back of the bus.
- What about the guy who stood in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square in 1989? What if he decided to not get out of bed that day?
What would your life be like if you went to the doctor and were told you had two months to live? Maybe this is where some try to construe the puppeteering aspect of free will. The moment you hear those words, you have two months to live, you have a decision to make – we will all agree to that. Free will is not about your ability to determine your environment.
I live in Malibu, CA and I assure you, my parents would love nothing more than for me to still be back in Kentucky. But to claim that I have any way of knowing or proving that I chose Mel and Pat to be my parents so I could enter into this world in Roanoke, VA, which is where I was born, is just a bit too close to claiming omnipotence for me. Feel free to disagree with me. Thankfully you can, because you have free will and you are responding to the stimulus that I just created.
You get my point?!?!
I watched a TED talk from 2006 from Tony Robbins, and he recently released a podcast of an updated version of that TED talk that I listened to a few weeks ago. Was this podcast topic predetermined for me?
If you think so, then I will have to tell you that as long as I can remember, I’ve made choices in my life that made little sense to many people that know me very well. I am grateful that I believe God gave me the gift of free will. I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m grateful Eve decided to ignore the Tree of Life rule.
Do I wish there wasn’t pain and suffering? Of course. Have I created pain and suffering for myself and others with choices that I’ve made? Unfortunately, yes. Have I also brought much joy and laughter? Hopefully that answer will be, abundantly more, YES!
Here’s what I know. In 2007, I was diagnosed with a severe back injury – my L4/L5 was protruding an inch one way and torn three quarters of an inch, the other way. My T9, C4 and C5 were also protruding. I was told, I would never run again. (I don’t say that for dramatics, I assure you.) After 6 MRI’s with dye and 28 blood test, the Neurosurgeon said he wanted to do a spinal tap.
My inability to walk standing upright began the end of February – Feb 25, 2007 to be exact. This conversation with my doctor happened the first week of June. They didn’t know how to help me, bottom line.
Why do I tell you this – because based on those circumstances, I chose to ignore the doctor. I told him, flat out. “Nope, you’re not sticking a needle in my spine and drawing out spinal fluid. It’s not happening. I will figure this out!!”
I left the doctor’s office, scared but determined. I told my body, it’s now or never. You better figure this out! I went back to when I was a little girl and remembered that part of me and why people called me independent. I listened to my body. Everything in me told me to NOT do the spinal tap. This wasn’t out of being scared of the needle. This made no sense to me. He could not explain why I had to have it and I was not going to be an experiment.
I believed what I have always known innately. God created this Universe and the body that I live in and he doesn’t screw things up. So, I asked myself – what do I have to do so I can give my body what it needs to heal?
Our bodies are not a trash cans. Yes, that sounds harsh, but when you take time to grasp the logistics and mechanics that are required for us to exist every single second – you KNOW this vessel knows how to function. What did I do to screw it up? Whatever I had done, hopefully, I could undo or at the very least repair.
I did just that. I fueled my body properly. I gave it the love and kindness of the physical therapy that was required to nurse my nerves back to functioning and triggering properly. Was it a long haul to recovery?
That’s really not the question. The real question is what did I choose to get me to that place of not being able to walk standing up and doctors telling me I would never run again? When you look back at how you got to that moment – the signs you missed, the messages you ignored, the pain you medicated – you make those decisions. Nothing in life just happens. There are fortunately and unfortunately people that lived and died on 9/11 because of their choices that day. There are people that pushed the snooze button, hugged their child 5 more minutes longer.
If you are awake – I don’t mean breathing – if you are spiritually awake and disciplined, you will hear and see the signs. Some people call it a God whisper, which I love. I like to call it – my choice to listen and receive.
I recently launched a challenge for people that are in my circle to reset and restore their bodies by going through a cleanse. Cleanse is sometimes a dirty word for some people, but I know a few Christians that will run to the river bank to brush off that old life for the new one, right? But when it comes to being disciplined with our bodies AND our minds, those cleansing waters don’t look so inviting. There is no wrong decision. They are choices. The judgement of man is of no concern to me. I don’t answer to those of you listening to me. I answer to God and myself.
I’m grateful for people like Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey who are examples of choice in spite of their circumstances. Here’s a controversial one – Lance Armstrong. While he has been demonized to some degree over the past few years for his choice to deceive, let’s not forget he did all of that, regardless of the drugs, after finding out he had testicular cancer. The power of his choice to live or do all that he could to live has not been lost on me regardless of his choices athletically.
No matter where you fall in this conversation, what I hope is that I’ve given you pause to actually stop and think – what do you believe? Do you believe you have free will to choose? If you do, know that you are equally responsible for those choices and those choices sometimes manifest themselves in ways that don’t appear to be our own doing and we ask God why. The way I see it, he gave it to us pretty sweet – served to us well beyond Michelin rated. On earth as it is in heaven . . . my view, earth would be heaven if we didn’t make such bad choices.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride today!! The road to excellence is paved with many stories and it would make my heart sing to know that you spending time with me today has in some way helped you see the gift that you are to this world and the fact that your choices matter. Choose wisely.
Thank you for joining me today and until next time, live excellence.