Red sweater or jacket? Coffee with cream or pumpkin spice latte? Do I drive today or take the metro? We are inundated with choices. My guess is that we make more choices in our western society in a day than some cultures make in a lifetime. Everywhere I go, about most things, I get to choose. One of my pet peeves is the drive thru where I will very clearly end my lunch order by saying, “AND THAT’S ALL!” To which the teenage voice inside the box ALWAYS asks, “Do you want fries with that?” (I want to reply, with a Christian spirit of course, “What part of THAT’S ALL do you not understand?”)
It amazes me then, as people so accustomed to making choices in the little things, why we feel so powerless in the big things. Our clinical director, Tracey Robison, is fond of saying to her clients, “You get to pick.” Forgive that person or not, I just can’t. Not true. You get to pick. Get out of that abusive relationship, I can never leave. Not true. You get pick. Continue to let those people trample on your boundaries, I can’t hurt their feelings. Not true. You get to pick. In so many of those difficult and damaging situations of our lives we have convinced ourselves that we are without options. Most of the time that simply is not the case. We have choices.
There are three choices that have changed my life and since I’m the one writing this blog I choose to share them with you. The first is I chose to let go of the pain and shame of my past. Now I confess that there were many years that I thought that was impossible to do. “That stuff has scarred me,” I said. “I’ll just have to live with the shame of that.” And then one day I discovered I could CHOOSE to lay it down. It was kind of a process. I would lay it down and the pick it right back up. Then I would lay it down and in a few days pick it up. Then I would lay it down and only pick it up when someone made an unkind or unthinking remark. But I kept choosing to lay it down and finally the day came when it was gone.
Don’t misunderstand. My past is not gone. I’m afraid that will always be there. The people I hurt and those that hurt me are around for a long time. (In spite of my prayers to the contrary. J) But the shame of those situations I chose to lay down, let go, walk away from. Sometimes in fact I will pick up the past again and reexamine it to remind myself of the wonderful grace if God, but that is without shame. Paul says, “Forgetting those things with are behind….I press on.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
The second choice I made a few years ago is to stay in the present, to live one day at a time, to focus on who and what is right in front of me. Listen, I was the worlds’ worst at dwelling in the past or fretting on the future. I couldn’t help myself. It’s just the way I was. I could not enjoy Josh’s ballgame because I was planning the next meeting in my head. Couldn’t really engage in a family party because I was stewing over the mess the staff had made of last week’s service. Where ever I was, I wasn’t. I was always somewhere else.
And then, one day, I chose to be fully present and attentive right where I was. I decided that tomorrow was going to come and I really could do very little about it. I remembered that the past was the past and I could not change it. I started looking into my wife’s eyes as she talked to me. I began to let my prayer time be about enjoying God’s presence rather than my long wish list. And I made up my mind to just get comfortable in my own skin. (I had no idea it was as wrinkly as it was.) I realized that I could choose to live this day to its fullest and tomorrow, start all over and do the same. I forget that some. I can still drift off to neverland but when I realize I’m there I choose to come back and be present. “Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink tomorrow. There is enough to focus on for today.” (Matthew 6)
That leads me to the most important choice I made. I chose to trust God. Now, I went down to a little altar when I was just a kid and gave my heart to Jesus. I prayed the prayer, signed the card, shook the preacher’s hand and got the T-shirt. But I never really trusted Him. I didn’t trust that He would take care of me; hence choice #2, always worrying and fretting about what to do next. I didn’t trust that He would really forgive me; hence choice #1, carrying shame and pain. And I certainly didn’t trust Him to love me. Oh, I knew He had to love me because He was God but He didn’t REALLY love me.
One day I decided that either God could be trusted or He couldn’t. Well, if He couldn’t we had a lot bigger problems than my little feelings. So, I chose to trust Him. To completely, wholeheartedly, absolutely throw my hat into the ring and all out trust Him. When the kids are sick, I get the Nyquil and I call the doctor, but I also trust Him. When the bills start to stack up, I look for a little extra work, I cut out the cable TV, but I also trust God. And when my soul gets a little restless, I’m not feeling that good about myself, I examine my attitudes, I look at my behaviors, but I also trust God that He loves me “with an everlasting love.” The neat thing is, when I can do a good job of choice #3 then 1 and 2 seem to take care of themselves. Here’s a good verse for that, also in Matthew 6, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these other things will be added to you as well. (verse 33)
Now what shoes you are going to where and who you will have lunch with, that’s up to you. But I highly recommend these three choices as the foundation for everything else. I wrote earlier this week and it seems to fit here, “Maturity is understanding that I am not in control of my fate. Wisdom is recognizing that I can choose who is.”