Do you feel like a lot of things in life are lose-lose choices?
Usually I say, “No way! Things in life are as-is or win-win!”
Are you a glass half-full or a glass half-empty kinda person?
Again, I’d normally answer, “Glass half-full, duh! That’s a much happier way to look at things, and it’s all the same things you’re looking at anyway.”
I told Bobby, “Remember being young? When decisions were simple?” He replied, “No, I think decisions are always the same. We grown-up adults just make them more complicated.”
I disagree. I completely disagree. The older I grow, the more gears and levers are added to the clockwork of my life. I not only have more angles, perspectives, and different ways of looking at life (which complicate it), but I also have… more things. Ten years ago, we didn’t have children, a home, health issues, aging parents, a career upheaval, or relationships spread in abundance. Ten years ago, I wasn’t thinking about the deep importance of schooling our kids, let alone all the serious things that growing children need like social interactions, emotional attention, warnings and guidance on real-life issues, filters, explanations, and spiritual guidance and teaching that will determine their lives for all eternity. Phew… those aren’t heavy things at all …
But also, ten years ago, I didn’t have the strong opinions I have now, let alone one hundred more opinions of others that I’ve internalized, thus affecting my thinking. Ten years ago, I was ignorant to some of the horrors of the world, how people really do have secrets that may shock you, and that life isn’t always what it is on the surface. I feel like the older I grow, the more life gets complicated. Maybe we do choose to complicate some of life unnecessarily, but… there are some real things that weren’t there when I was younger. And that makes decisions… well, not so simple.
Therefore, the more things we have in life, the harder it is to make decisions. Bobby and I used to look at a life decision, talk about which choice held the most benefit, and pick it. The end. But now, once we land on a decision that seems to be the best option, we realize… no, that means we will have a serious deficit in this other very important area that we didn’t perceive at first. So, we bring everything back up to the table, re-analyze everything, decide on the best option again (although not so confident anymore) … and we realize a risk we were calculating became a lot riskier, so we have to restart, yet again. On, and on, and on, our decisions go. And the longer we wait, the more things come up that start affecting the decision, making it once again, more complicated.
Take a house for example. When we were going to buy our first home, we had NO IDEA what kind of home would fit us. Why? Because we simply had never lived in a home. We didn’t know what kind of kitchen would function for our cooking, we didn’t know how many kids would fill the rooms, we didn’t know how many people we would invite into our living room, we didn’t know how many hobbies might clutter our storage shelves. We were young and wanted to buy a house. So, we bought one that was safe, sturdy, cheap (but not too cheap), and close to where we worked. Decision made.
But now, thinking about buying a house goes like this: I don’t want one too big because I don’t like cleaning it, but I don’t want one too small because we have about 5 million toys and gadgets to store. I know all the kids share one room now, but they can’t share a room their whole lives and what if we have another baby, then how many rooms will we need? We can make a two-story work, but we both really don’t like the function of two stories, and we especially don’t like split levels. We loved living in a 100-year-old home with lots of unique character, but we didn’t like the mold that covered the garage and the falling-apart windows (plus old homes tend to be in more urban areas, which we don’t always love). We loved doing home improvements in our first home, but now we both agree we do not want a fixer-upper at all, so we kinda want to buy a house that is up to our housing comfort standards. But the housing market! Things are out of control! Can we even afford a comfortable nice-ish house anyway? I like to garden, so I’d love a sunny patch for a garden, and the kids like to ride their bikes in the street so a slow street would be nice, and we definitely need a fence, and it would be nice to live next to a park or walking trail, and we have to be at least five minutes from a grocery store, blah, blah, blah. Decision NOT MADE. See what I mean? Life gets complicated. It’s a fact. We old people are bogged down with so many things and opinions and complications.
And a home-buying decision isn’t even the important decision right now! My heart sinks heavily for our future. Everything about our future (including a future home) feels hot in the press. And hotly complicated. First, I love Minnesota. Everyone I talk to knows all too well that I love Minnesota. But, I LOVE my parents, in-laws, siblings, and my nieces and nephews in Nebraska. Nothing can replace family. Nothing. I love my family more than Minnesota! But one love outweighing the other doesn’t make the decision simple or intuitive. It just makes life decisions more complicated. Second, Bobby has always loved the Bible and theology thinking, talking, discussing, teaching about those things. But we have had a recent, increasing desire for Bobby to stretch his opportunities as a musician, try new things, and steward his musical talents. What exactly are we to hone-in on as his call for ministry? It’s a tug of war. And what usually lost (music) is starting to win. It’s not easy, it’s confusing. Third, I love homeschooling our kids, and I believe it is good for them both educationally and spiritually, but it’s harder than I expected. I often dream of being a real teacher again…. with 20 or so pairs of eager ears and eyes looking up at me quietly and ready for whatever crazy lesson I had in store for them. I love my own kids more than I loved any of my students, but for some reason, it’s just different. Teaching your own kids is one hundred times harder than teaching a class of kids. Two loves, strong beliefs, long-term effects, no easy decision. All of these life things, to me, are growing more and more to be lose-lose decisions. No matter what happens, I lose something. Sure, I win something… but the loss of the thing I lose doesn’t seem worth the thing I win. And vice versa.
What is a girl to do?
Can someone just make my decisions for me, please? I’m done. I quit.
As I counsel myself, there is some relief. The decisions for our future… where we live, the church we join, the house we buy, Bobby’s job… these are not decisions for today. As Elizabeth Elliot would say, “Just do the next, best thing.” So, when I have decision paralysis about our future, I pray God would do whatever He needs to do. Then, what do I have left? Start making decisions for today! Are dishes needed to be done? Do them. Or else read a book to a kid. Or do some of the dishes, go on a walk, and finish the dishes later. Or simply start the dishwasher and go help a kid take a nap. (Who would have thought there are so many decisions that accompany the dishes, right?!) There is great relief in living for the day, and not being anxious for tomorrow. (That’s why there’s legit relief in just doing the dishes… seriously, try it). Real peace comes from trusting that God will do what he needs to do, and I don’t need to figure it all out right this second.
But I don’t find permanent relief, because I know that our future is pertinent to the decisions of today. Our future, in fact, is made up of the decisions we make today. Decisions, especially big ones, and especially far-off ones, have a hundred million decisions and action steps that start, not the day of the real decision, but many, many days before! So am I allowed to keep putting off our future until the future? Not really! I mean, I can a little…
But, what is a girl to do?
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
If a mighty king who may or may not believe in God– is but a stream of moveable water in which the Lord turns for his will… then how much more is my heart (and life) moveable to a mighty God who accomplishes his will? A king may not know the Lord is really the one acting behind his many decrees, but me, a Christ-follower, not only knows God’s working, but I depend on his work for the things I might “decree”!
I’ve been living for 30 years. In 30 years I have never, ever, ever been disappointed by the Lord’s will. I admit I have been thrown off. I have been confused, fearful, or even bitter at times. I have imagined and wished the Lord’s will would have turned out differently. I haven’t always understood. But the Lord never leaves me in distress. He gives me the understanding that I need at the time I need it, AND a heart bursting with thanksgiving because he always does best. Always. Even when I don’t have all the answers. Even in pain. In one way or another, God always gives me belief and trust in him. Because that’s what God does. He gives His children faith; which is not our own doing; but the gift of God! In all the ups and downs, complexities of life, lose-loses, win-wins, glasses full or empty, dishes clean or dirty, God grants me faith. And along with faith, comes joy. Joy unending. Thanksgiving! Joy and thanksgiving because I know and am given eyes to see that God does what is right and good for himself AND for me. God works things for our good. Thus, this truth inherently produces a willing heart for where he puts us. I don’t always know how he puts us where he puts us, and I definitely don’t know how he changes our hearts so that we are content where he puts us, but at the end of the day he is going to put us somewhere, and he’s going to give us faith to accompany it. And I don’t doubt that. I don’t doubt that for one second. It’s a miracle. It’s a gift. It’s permanent. In all our thinking about our decisions, God is there. He will move when he will move, and in the end it’s a win.
So, really, in God’s Kingdom, it’s always a win-win. Always.