President Lincoln was not endowed with natural beauty, and he knew it. On one occasion, the political detractor Stephen Douglas accused the president of being two-faced. With renowned humility and humor, Lincoln retorted, “Does the gentleman believe for a moment that if I had two faces, I would be wearing this one?” Sticking with the issue of the human face, President Lincoln on another occasion stated, “Every man over 40 is responsible for his face.” This last quote seems pretty rich given Lincoln’s physical features, but it is worth pausing to ponder.
President Lincoln may be on to something. We create ourselves over time. By the choices we pursue and the decisions we make on a daily basis, we are becoming something more or something less. Our choices form a mold that casts our character and the shape of our lives over time. People don’t suddenly become holy or worldly, wise or foolish, sweet or sour at age sixty-five. No, they were working on it for a long time, decision by decision, action by action, reaction by reaction. Each choice is a stepping stone to something better or a stumbling block to life improvement and character development. We must remember that each word, action, look, attitude is a choice that will have consequences determining the quality of our lives, present and future. With every decision we turn the central part of us over to something that turns us into something we never were. It has been wisely stated, “We make our choices, and our choices turn around and make us.”
We are all becoming something through choice, and we need to be discerning as to what that is. We can choose certain sinful practices and paths—such as lust, anger, selfishness—at sixteen and maybe get away with it while we are still young. But, over time they will shape us and misshape us, form us and deform us. If you don’t believe that, think about the launching of a rocket to the moon. The trajectory may be just one degree off at takeoff. To the TV audience, everything looks good, and people applaud, but in the end that rocket will miss the moon by 4,100 miles. Just a one-degree miscalculation, and with time and space, it is not even close. Listen! Choices turn our lives one degree at a time in certain directions and perhaps in ways that we cannot imagine at the time. But, given time and space, the consequences of those choices will become apparent for good or ill. As Robert Louis Stevenson famously and memorably noted, “Sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.” Consequences brought about by choices.
Since the choices we make turn around and make us, let us make wise choices. Let’s pursue discretion and wise choices because, according to the book of Proverbs, they will watch over us and keep us safe in life and for eternity (Prov. 2:11). Let’s acknowledge the Lord in all our ways through prayer and Bible study (Prov. 3:5–6). Let’s walk with the wise and listen to good counsel (Prov. 13:20; 11:14). Let’s keep the end in view as we make decisions; let’s remember the consequential effects of any choice given time and distance (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Let’s do this because choice is a wonderful gift but a grave responsibility.
You and I create ourselves over time, so let’s choose carefully!