We Are Cause and Effect

I have spent the last 6 years working retail out of a 300,000-square-foot blue box that shall remain nameless. (I’m sure you can figure it out.)

My job is to make the store looks good, to display items in an inspiring way that keeps people coming back for more. One of my daily responsibilities is to spend the morning cleaning up after the horde that visited the previous day. This can easily take up to 3 hours in each department.

I’ve learned something over the years. People are messy, savages really. They grope their way through the store like animals hunting prey. Sometimes I think people walk in with one goal:

Must touch everything. Must move it as far away from where it belongs as possible.

It’s funny really, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the same behavior. It’s easy to zone out and assume something exists for you alone, to forget that someone is going to have to clean up after you.

If every customer left the store the way they found it, my team could spend a lot more time inspiring and less time rearranging.

And isn’t that true for all of life? Our decisions, our actions impact other people, and vice versa. We are both cause and effect. 

Every decision I make affects someone else, whether directly or indirectly. The Bible illustrates this early on. The decisions of one couple forever altered the course of history, polluting humanity with an innate selfishness known as sin.

We see it everywhere. If you don’t believe me turn on the news. An individual’s choice to drive after a night at the bar results in the deaths of other drivers. Greed in our school systems has led to a breakdown in education, which only fuels poverty and violence.

Just watch the next presidential debate, or listen to coworkers discussing the state of our country.

“Mr. President, if you would have done (A) we would not be stuck in (B). You broke our economy.”

Do politicians often make terrible decisions that affect our nation? Every single day. But no one president has ever destroyed an economy. The nation as a whole has done that.

President Fill-in-the-blank didn’t tell the banks to give loans to irresponsible people. He didn’t tell mortgage companies to give people more house than they could afford. He certainly didn’t tell citizens to max out multiple credit cards in pursuit of the American dream.

We did that. And now we are paying for it.

Are we all fiscally irresponsible? Of course not, but unfortunately the way my neighbors treat their houses directly affects the value of mine. We are all tied together.

My wife and I recently found out that we are pregnant. So exciting. So incredibly scary. In my opinion, nothing makes you more aware of the weight of your decisions than the idea of parenting. Here are some thoughts that haunt me at the moment:

  • If I treat my wife with constant disrespect, my children will be impacted. A son will grow up assuming women only respond to harsh words and chauvinism, and a daughter will gravitate towards pathetic losers like me.
  • If I exhibit shady character, chances are so will my children. As the saying goes, “More is caught than taught.”
  • I have the power to absolutely ruin a vulnerable, human life, or to enrich it.

I can’t control others, but I can do something about my actions, the mark I leave on society.

For me, it starts with realizing how flawed I am, how much I need help from someone greater than myself. In walks Jesus to clean up my mess, to address the collective disorder caused by sin and a lack of personal responsibility.

On the cross, He shouldered the consequences of our decisions. Literally.

What we do with that information will determine both how we view the world and how we live in it.

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