I remember pulling hard and fast on the paddle, propelling my whitewater canoe forward with the accelerating current toward the brink of Wonder Falls, an eighteen-foot falls on the Big Sandy River. I remember the point of no return, when I knew there was no turning back, no turning around, when I knew that I was committed, that one way or another I was going over the falls!
I made the choice to be there. I made the choice to run the falls. But once I passed that point of no return, I had no more choice … We make countless choices every day that commit us, countless choices we cannot undo. We cannot stop and say “Ooops. I want a ‘do-over.'” or “Wait a minute. I changed my mind.”
Maturity is about taking responsibility for our commitments, about understanding the consequences — and the gravity — of our choices … about thinking carefully, choosing decisively, acting boldly, and accepting whatever befalls us. We can learn from our mistakes; we just cannot undo them. The choices I make in this one moment inexorably alter the options I have available in the next.
And yet … And yet …
It seems to me that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes the rules about points of no return. Not absolving us of our responsibilities, not denying the very real consequences of our choices, but somehow reaching us, holding us, saving us when we have passed what we thought was the point of no return. There is no point beyond which the love of God cannot reach us! There is no point beyond which the grace of God cannot bring us back! I am never — never! — committed to a failed life, never — never! — doomed to hell. There is always for us — for any of us — the possibility of forgiveness, of justice, of mercy, of grace.
Now that is something for which to be thankful!