It’s not like choosing the wrong sized prom dress. It can usually be altered. Or that “dye job” gone awry. And, that hair cut, friends revel in asking, “What size bowl did they use.” “It will grow out,“ were told. Or that “dream job” that’s morphed into a nightmare. The impact is exiguous. Even a “blind date” gone sour is fleeting. Rather, it’s those choices that are unalterable, that can’t be recalled, no matter how bad one feels, one is unable to annul or revoke it. On a human level, it’s irreversible. Most involve more than one person, and it’s results are devastating. The consequences are incalculable, and excruciatingly painful.
Last week in Natrona County District Court, 18 year Jessica Carnline, faced the judge, hearing her sentence of 12 to 16 years in a women’s facility in Wyoming. Earlier that year she had, after “huffing” canned air duster, while driving at age 17, crashed a vehicle into the emergency entrance of the Wyoming Medical Center. Prosecutors charged her as an adult. After recovering from her injuries, she discovered she had killed her two passengers in the back seat. It was estimated the vehicle was traveling nearly 75 mph when it struck the concrete barrier. There was no indication at the scene that she ever touched the brakes.
If she could do it over, would she have made another choice? Was she too young? Her attorney pleaded that she was too immature to understand the gravity of her decisions. The court was apparently unmoved. Some have said stupid, or worse. Youthful indiscretion? Perhaps it was an amalgam of those. She pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. A tragic outcome for all. Two dead and one wounded long-term. No one can recount Jessica’s thoughts before the fatal crash. She couldn’t-she’d passed out. No “redoes” or a mulligan. Is her life over? What good can come of this sad tale? Most who saw the photo of her November 5, 2014, initial appearance, were struck by her soulless, forlorn, bespectacled visage, donned in a county issued orange jump suit. Will that baby-face be sadly hardened in 15 years? Can she forgive herself for her dastardly deed? Can she be forgiven?
The late Edith Schaeffer, wrote, in 1980, in her chronicle of a life with Dr. Francs Schaeffer, The Tapestry, of this mystery, the co-mingling of God’s work, and our choices, “The thing that fascinates me really is the weaving of lives together, the fabulous way God works in history, while at the same time people’s choices cause changes in history, for good or bad.” She maintains history is different because we have lived. We each cause a ripple that is unending. Our lives are woven together. What appears to mortals as a “senseless act” from afar, to be unredeemable, it’s not beyond the reach of an Infinite, Personal God, who takes these “threads,” and “weaves them” into His plan. We’ve heard far too long in this skeptical age, that He is Transcendent-too “far off” and unmoved by mortal affairs. That’s if, they question, He can even do anything about it. A falsehood of eternal proportions.
Many made choices that still haunt them today. It may not be apparent to the casual observer. Those choices plague them day and night. Time masks wounds-never healing. No balm for the soul. We’re masters at masquerading pain. Though our reverie is veneer thin, we muddle through, or turn to inutile, perfidious alternatives. “Coping,” we say. Alcohol, drugs, workaholics, infidelity, concealing, or worse. A volatile mix.. Divorce wreaks havoc on multitudes. Some reunite. That number’s infinitesimal. Children are hurt, betrayed, confused, and asked to believe the lie, “Everything will be fine.” Mom and Dad are the walking wounded. Some outcomes are better than others. Mostly tales of woe. What can be done?
Of all the sordid, violable acts imaginable, many agree the pedophile, as the most morally odious and reprehensible. Many who’ve been incarcerated admit candidly, they should “never go back into society.” It was a choice. Some lobby for the idea that they are irredeemable in society. A few venture out into the murky waters of a “theological quagmire” affirming their belief that pedophiles are beyond God’s redemption. As repugnant as one finds their behavior and lifestyle on a human level, many evangelicals reject that notion as biblically flawed. The concupiscent draw to little boys and girls, may follow them to their grave. Is God’s arm too short to reach them, or the crack heroine addict? Bernie Madoff schemed to bilk many out of millions of dollars. They trusted him with their fortune and future. Though incarcerated, he’s remained recalcitrant from his lawless, cavalier, wielding of financial chicanery.
The choice to snuff out the life of the unborn is irrevocable. It’s permanent. There’s no restoration. Many women, particularly younger girls, are snared in a web-web of fear, confusion and lies. Are their acts exempt from God’s forgiveness? Is there an antidote for these choices? For centuries legions, similarly situated, have found solace, forgiveness, and a clean heart in this timeless promise, couched in Hebrews 10:17, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Is that “theological amnesia?” It’s the work of an omniscient God, who knows the mystery of our intersecting choices, with His inexhaustible love-looking beyond our lawlessness, seeing our desperate need.
Repentant pauper, prince, president, pedophile or swindler; none are beyond His reach. We who’ve experienced this liberating truth are His “hands, feet, and mouthpiece.” Anyone willing to demonstrate such to Jessica Carnline, while incarcerated? President Nixon’s “dirty trick” chief counsel, Chuck Colson encountered this palliative balm for his soul after incarceration, and founded Prison Fellowship in 1976. None are exempt from “irrevocable choices.” No time for pointing our long, boney finger. We must be deliberate in our calling. Is it an ending? Or new beginning? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt is a Natrona County resident. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org