Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
— Joel 3:14
Although I have read the Bible from cover to cover, somehow I was unfamiliar with this short line of Scripture. I heard it, seemingly for the first time, at a church meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, last week. It stuck in my mind.
In the biblical sense I understood that it referred to the concept of deliverance in the days of the Second Coming. I also thought of W.B. Yeats’ famous poem on that particular subject:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I do not presume to know much about this Second Coming except that it is affirmed in another Bible Scripture, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (2 Peter).
As I thought more about the valley of decision, however, I could not help but think of the biblical assertion that God gave man the power to choose. In my layman’s understanding, I concluded this meant choose good over evil; kindness over meanness; love over hate; and him over Satan.
Then it occurred to me that there are certain things we cannot choose:
• You can’t choose the family you are born into.
• You can’t choose your relatives (though some of us wish we could!)
• You can’t choose your nationality or ethnicity.
There are other things we cannot choose, mostly tied to genetics. But there are many, many small picture things where we can choose. In fact, I believe we make thousands of choices every waking hour.
• When you walk out your door, you can go left or right.
• You can choose to brush your teeth, or not.
• You choose what and when you eat.
• You choose a mate or life partner.
• You choose a car and home.
• Each day, you choose what you will wear.
• From time to time, you choose a political candidate when you step into the voting booth.
We make thousands of choices every day, some consciously, and some unconsciously, or out of habit.
Whatever the case, our choices always have consequences. If, for example, you choose to smoke and drink alcohol, at some point in your life you can expect to suffer the ill effects of nicotine and alcohol abuse.
If you are a careless driver, chances are you will at some point have a major or minor automobile accident (or two, or three, or more) in relatively short periods of time.
I also believe that our small picture choices have a cumulative effect. In other words, they add up.
For this reason, throughout your life, I guess the most important thing is to make informed choices.
Sometimes that’s pretty easy. Sometimes it’s not.
If it is winter and the temperature is below zero, most likely you will choose to wear a heavy coat. In warmer weather, you will wear lighter clothing.
Where I think we get into trouble is with the cumulative effect of bad, or uninformed choices. These choices usually take the form of habits.
I think the key to living a good, long life is to develop healthy habits of thought and behavior.
These are habits of mind, body, and spirit. In short, do the things that bring health and spiritual joy. We are all among the multitudes caught in the valley of decision, not for the next world, but for this one.
As to the bigger picture, choose a Higher Power. Choose life.
Have a nice day.
Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher.