Reggie Ponder column mug

Reggie Ponder

As I write this on Veterans Day my heart is filled with gratitude for the service that has been rendered by veterans.

It has long seemed serendipitous to me that Veterans Day and Thanksgiving occur within the same month. The co-occurrence creates a kind of season of gratitude, with Thanksgiving Day set aside expressly for the purpose of giving thanks and Veterans Day providing a fine opportunity to offer thanks that are focused specifically on veterans and their service to the nation.

Just this morning I read something that challenged people to consider whether they are living the life they chose or instead are living the life chosen for them.

The point seemed to be that we should be conscious about our lives and take responsibility for them.

So far, so good, I thought. But I also realized that the matter is rarely if ever that simple.

Surely we make choices that determine the trajectory of our lives. It’s true that we are responsible for those choices. And it’s also true that we should avoid acting (or even thinking) as if our life has been hijacked by forces beyond our control.

But there’s always more to it than that. Life is also about playing the hand we are dealt. And we all are indeed dealt a unique hand.

Whether you understand the dealer to be God, as I do, or whether you see the forces behind the dealing of the hand as an array of societal and environmental factors, it’s clearly true that many of the realities of our lives were somehow chosen for us.

As I think about being thankful, I am thankful for numerous items from both baskets. There are choices I have made — to marry Jane, to work in journalism, to pursue ministry in the church — that have yielded abundant blessings for which I am enormously grateful.

But if those choices are parsed fully enough it becomes clear that there was also a Divine Architect behind all of them. It’s not that I didn’t make those choices consciously.

But I could have walked a path that never crossed paths with Jane. And I had no intention of studying journalism when I started college. I also had no thought of ever serving as a pastor when I started studying journalism.

And some of the richest blessings in my life were entirely outside of my choosing. For more than 33 years I have been blessed to have Nathan in my life. But I don’t think anyone consciously chooses to have a child who is autistic or experiences any kind of disability.

We chose to have a child but the child we received was a Gift of God, not someone we planned in our own minds.

Some of the veterans we honor choose from an early age to serve their country by serving in the military. Others were drafted.

Some enlisted in times of peace with no expectation of ever serving in combat, only to find themselves in the heat of battle after major changes on the world stage.

Others expected to serve in combat but instead were assigned to other duties.

They all made choices, but there also were choices made for them far outside of their own field of vision.

Life is a mixture of both what we choose and what is chosen for us, and the things we are most thankful for might be a combination of both.

Thanks to all veterans and may everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer for The Daily Advance.