Early in Genesis, God speaks to Cain, who is angry with him for having favor for Abel. One translation of this dialogue is, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7) The Hebrew word used for "you must," however, is "timshel," which more accurately translates to, "you may." 

Lately, I've been more awakened to the endless choices God presents me in my life. "Vivian, sin desires to have you, but you may rule over it. In all circumstances." My prayer in response is gratitude. Timshel is not a promise that I will always choose the more loving way (in fact, many times I do not). Timshel is not a command either – "choose the right thing, or else." Timshel is "you may." This invitation, a reminder of my belovedness and blessings. God has already given me what I need to choose Love in all circumstances. 

This reminder first became clear in January – my invitation for this year. After being out of the country for a few months, I was suddenly struck with severe health issues. In my life, I have hardly ever experienced much more than a cold. I was used to running around a million miles per hour, juggling work, and relationships in two different countries, in two languages, with two cultures. And I thought I was living. Being in and out of doctors' offices and hospitals, hardly capable of holding one thought, much less multiple, barely being able to move, only to get consistent messages that there is still no diagnosis was initially jarring. Mostly, I felt confused. When I prayed in those initial moments, especially during my longer hospitalization, I felt God reminding me I had a choice, even in the fragile state that I was in. I could live in sadness and just the pain (and that would be completely understandable), or I can live in joy and hope that this was not the end of the story. I chose the latter and in choosing that, I chose healing. 

During those days, I was mostly heavily medicated, so I'm not sure how much of my interactions in the hospital were calculated, but I do remember still choosing – even simple things. When I would yell out for more pain medicine, my nurses would rush to me and I remember trying to focus as much as I could to remember their name and to appreciate them with as much graciousness as I could muster at that time, which wasn't much. I am not sure whether it even made a difference to them, but it was my choice. Of course, I realize that no one would have faulted me for yelling or being angry, but I prayed for the grace to be gracious even in those small encounters. The days were few, but the lessons were profound for me.

Those experiences in the hospital alerted me to other spaces in my life that God reminds me I have choices. In work, I can choose to have a healthier relationship with boundaries and self-care. In relationships, I can choose to be present to people and appreciate them in the moment by trying to understand how what their realities are and still staying true to my own. With my body, I can choose to give my body the most helpful building materials to heal itself – sleep, food, exercise. I can choose to grow – in love and graciousness – in all things and all circumstances. I may not be able to choose what happens to me, and I am also aware now more clearly that I may choose how to respond. 

Padre querido, I pray that you help me and my community see all people and circumstances in life as you see them. I thank you for your constant invitations and reminders that we can choose Love. Help me and us to see these choices, even when we cannot. Help me choose you in all things. May you forgive me for the times that I do not choose the most gracious option. Gracias. Amén. 

Tu hija, Vivian Valencia