Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Choose Wisely

Recently I had a day off from work that fell midweek, a rarity.  I scheduled this particular day off as my wife was also to be home and I thought we'd capture an opportunity to spend some time together.  I told her that I would not plan anything for the day, rather the open day was free for her to create.  I would do anything that she wanted to do.  While I idealized and dreamed of all this might entail, she informed me that we'd spend the first half of the day cleaning.  My job was to scrub the bathroom.

After bleaching the bathroom and wondering aloud if our boys ever actually hit the toilet, I started to replace the soaps and shampoos in the shower.  I counted my shower accessories at two.  I counted my wife's shower supplements at twelve.  Admittedly, my wife is beautiful and soft but I wondered if it really required twelve half empty bottles of soaps, lotions, shampoos, and conditioners to accomplish this.  I wondered how she even chose which to use on any particular day. 

Psychologist Barry Schwartz says that too many choices actually can increase our anxiety.  He says, "...freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically" (The Paradox of Choice, 2004).  I wondered if this is why my wife is sometimes cranky when she gets out of the shower.  Perhaps she was wrought with anxiety over which body soaps to use.  On the other hand, she might just be annoyed at me standing in the bathroom asking her why she has so many toiletries when she is simply longing to experience some quiet time in the escape of the shower. 
At times, I believe that we seek God's will to relieve us from the anxiety of choice.  If God would only make clear His divine will then we could just walk in accordance.  If only He would just tell us what to do, it seems so much easier than us frantically trying to discern His mysterious preferred way.  We just want God to take away the hurt, from the deep pain of tragedy to the pricking pain of an unclear choice. 
This isn't always God's way.  My pastor recently summarized a video by author Brene Brown in saying, "God is not an epidural.  God is the midwife waiting with you, aware of you, delivering something better that is yet to be born in you."  God's in it with us.  Another friend recently described her past view of God as the expectant parent offering their child a choice and disappointed if the child doesn't choose the preferred.  She contrasted that with her current view of God which is an excited parent eager for their child to make a choice as they know there are just so many joys and opportunities within many of the options - they can barely wait to journey with their child in uncovering what's next along either path.  God's like a midwife, experiencing with us both the acute pain and intense joy of our circumstance. 

Pastor and writer Winn Collier says, "Freedom comes when we stop the loony delusion that we’re a match for God, when we stop pretending that we have the resources or the skill or the knowledge or the tenacity to pull our life into clear space. It’s a beast of a job trying to hold the world up on our shoulders."  Freedom doesn't come from certainty or in the elimination of choice. Instead, freedom often comes from a deep understanding that, ultimately, God's got this.  Collier continues, "[when we lay down our prideful resistance, there is] nothing to do but drop the weight and the fight and say yes to joy."
I recently had a significant decision in front of me.  I staggered under the weight of trying to do what's right - for God, family and country.  I wrestled with God with increasing intensity as things didn't seem to align.  And then, like the new day driving off the fog, I saw beyond the decision immediately in front of me and into the horizon.  "From now on every road you travel will take you to GodFollow the Covenant signs;  Read the charted directions"  (Psalm 25:10 MSG).   My decision wasn't going to change the course of the world.  My anxiety in trying to discern God's preferred choice resulted only in wrestling with myself.  God wasn't pacing the floors of heaven worrying and hoping that I'd make the right call.  God was relaxing in a lounge chair smiling at the thought of what we'd experience on either side of my current decision.  He couldn't wait to go there with me.  Or there.  Or there.   I'm now free from the anxiety of choice and excited at the notion of heading in a new direction, with God's arm around me as we journey.
I suppose that it doesn't matter what soaps or lotions my wife chooses.  Many are appropriate for her skin type and any of those will enhance her natural beauty in a special way.  And so it is with us.  God knows what's best for us.  And at the same time, we must make choices in this life based on what we know of ourselves, of others, and of God.  Among the many appropriate choices we might select, God's redeeming grace will always be at work - washing away the grit of life and exposing all we were created to be - this, a wonderfully unique becoming.

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