Men are made of decisions. It is a commonplace that the little decisions are what make a man, adding together to become the habits of a life. Likewise they are the training and practice for the big decisions. Every little thing mattters. Quite true.
But there is a flip side to that coin. The big decisions also matter, and they matter regardless of the little decisions that lead to them. What I mean is this: while little decisions may condition our responses to big choices, those big choices are also big chances to break old habits, to counteract earlier little decisions, and redifine the life which you lead. Habits can be broken in one fell swoop, a rousing moment of redemption, or a tragic crash of hubris. The little decisions matter, but they are not the final word.
Pardon my musings. This is the sort of interesting tangle people write stories to unsnarl.
But if you ask me, little decisions determining a life’s course is most definitely the norm. When a big decision confronts a man and he chooses a path to which he is not accustomed, something extraordinary has happened. Either a change of character has occured, or else a tension within the man’s character has been revealed. If the latter is the case, any amount of time will see the tension resolved. One cannot act in the grand moments according to one set of principles, and live one’s daily life according to another. At some point, the daily life will change, or else the grand moments will fall in line.
But if a grand moment, a big decision, reveals a sudden change of character, that is something miraculous. Outside of Christ, a lifetime of sinful habits (yes, I was thinking morally the whole time) will carve a rut in which a man’s soul may get stuck. Suddenly getting out of those ruts requires something strang and wonderful: a new heart. A man’s entire character must be changed, and that is not something he can do himself.
That is why, I think, such stories are fascinating. We want to see men with a certain character that is simply not good enough. We want to see these men struggle with life, and then see them presented with some particular conflict which draws up into one immensely climactic moment. At that moment, we want to see their character change, because we want to believe that such a thing is possible, and we want to know what it looks like. That dramatic change in character gives us hope.
That is why we love testimonies. That is why I love Augustine’s Confessions.