A couple of years ago I wrote a post about something that I dubbed the “Agency Continuum” where the choices that you make are part of a connected cycle.
I’d like to take the model I presented in that post, particularly the figure eight shape, and point out a few things in light of the word “continuum.” First off, let’s define the word itself:
Continuum: a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct. (Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary)
Often the choices that lay before us are not perceptibly different and it isn’t until the consequences present themselves that we fully understand one extreme or the other. One of the greatest challenges of life is discerning what is right versus what is wrong. Often it can be terribly difficult or even impossible to figure out in our own minds alone what choice is right.
Thank God for repentance and the atonement and thank God for the scriptures, the guidance of his servants, and the Holy Spirit that can help us discern between the adjacent choices that lie before us.
I like to convey this continuum in a figure eight pattern so that it illustrates a crossing point where agency comes into play. It shows how it is possible to continue in a cycle of righteousness instead of the circular “pride cycle” model that seems to show failure as an inevitability instead of a possibility. My model also illustrates how even after a wrong choice, life always circles back to an opportunity to make things right.
On the other hand, right choices may elevate and strengthen you, but trials of faith and temptation still lie ahead. At the crux is always agency, and no matter what we may believe or what philosophies we may ascribe to, choice is the power that governs our growth. Choice is more than just a casual part of life, it is the thing that defines our existence.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (D&C 93:30)
The power of choice
It annoys me how often I hear these messages that beat the drum of “be who you really are,” whatever that means, or “just accept that you are imperfect,” etc. Our potential is much greater than we can possibly imagine, and many voices out there suggest that it is much more comforting to live as far as possible below that potential.
While these voices may think that they are protecting people from pain and sorrow, they may be unintentionally persuading you to surrender your agency! It is true that staying the course, seeking to make right choices, and pursue the path of perfection will result in pain, discouragement, hopelessness, and often fear, but those are the things that turn our hearts and minds to God.
We are here to make choices, to continually have before us both good and evil, clarity and paradox. Just when we think we have it all figured out, that’s when the rug gets pulled out from underneath us. There is no easy path, and there is no escape from the continuum of choices that continually lie before us.
How will you ever experience redemption when you have never felt lost? How will you ever know the salvation of God if you feel perpetually comfortable and secure?
The truth is that we prefer the story of victory through struggle. How many movies feature the “hero” sitting comfortably in his living room for the entire time feasting on treats while wrapped in a warm blanket? Nuff said.
Our stories would be much sadder if we were all alone, if this life was it and nothing more. What a tragic mess life and consciousness would be, and what pointlessness in trying to build or achieve anything if all of us here on earth were just some random chemical reaction on a space rock orbiting some inconsequential star.
We think, we act, we exist, we can explore natural law and operate within it’s bounds to do incredible things. We can explore the planets and put objects and humans in orbit, we can see deep into the universe, far beyond the capability of our natural eyes.
Why are we so willing to lend our ear to voices that would have us believe that just being “what we are” is just fine? I get that we have weaknesses and are fallen beings in need of a Savior, but the fact that we have a Savior should inspire us to realize the potential of what that atonement actually means! True, we can be limited in degrees by external influences, the choices of others, and our own weaknesses. The extremes of the continuum may pull at our minds throughout our lives, but what is most important are the choices we make against all of those influences.
I don’t think enough can be said about our power to choose, to make a conscious, intelligent, divinely guided-choice against a subconscious, carnal, mortally dictated philosophy. When those choices are in tandem with the will of God and the mercy of our Savior, the voices of the world and the pull of the flesh lose their power over us.
Full purpose of heart
There is a difference between the kind of comfort that comes from avoiding the struggle and the peace that comes from passing through it. Giving ourselves partially to God is like partially building a bridge and instead of crossing a chasm we ‘walk the plank.’
With that, I’ll leave you with some light from the scriptures:
“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.”
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.”
2 Nephi 25:29
“And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.”
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”