Choice Theory

Before we begin, do your character a favor and commit the next 5 minutes of your life to bawling your eyes out at the courage and wonderfulness of this little boy (video here). I’ve watched it several times, but never make it past the 54 second mark, at which point I cry like a drunk on St. Patty’s Day. My waterproof mascara was unequal to the challenge.

What a great story, huh? An incredible picture of pluck in the face of great odds.

Whenever I see or hear about a person like this, someone who is dedicated to overcoming unbelievable odds, I feel inspired; “Man oh man,” think I, “I wish I could be THAT type of person.” Overcoming my odds doesn’t offer nearly as good a story, though, and when Good Morning American still hasn’t called me for an interview after I’ve spent two weeks of controlling my temper in South Carolina traffic and getting up without hitting my snooze button more than twice, I slip back into my old patterns. I think on some level I assume that I’ll practice overcoming obstacles when a big one comes my way, all the while setting myself up to be unable to achieve that objective by refusing to practice overcoming the small obstacles that in my path.

You see this sometimes with people who want to go into ministry. I’ve heard people boast that they are willing to endure any suffering for the sake of the gospel. . . then whine about how they want to avoid a difficult friend. We’re ready to rally for the big moments, but far less able to engage in the daily act of laying our lives down. We’re sitting at the starting line of a marathon, hoping it shrinks to a 100-yard dash so we can get to the victory lap and medal ceremony faster. But life is a marathon sprinkled with the occasional 100-yard dash, and while it’s great to save some energy for those sprints, strolling through the marathon until those come up will leave us unprepared.

I’ve been thinking about this concept with regard to decision-making quite a bit lately. We tend to spend the majority of our energy and effort on big decisions–whom to marry, what career to choose, whether to eat the carrot cake or the cheesecake. To some degree, that’s warranted.

But big decisions are built on a foundation of small ones. It’s funny how many times during a week I’ll allow myself to skip reading my Bible, despite wanting a life in ministry. I’m not sure how, exactly, I plan to minister to people for God while letting my relationship with Him slide. While the decision to marry a certain person is big, it’s the ‘insignificant’ daily choices you make to love that person that will result in a joyful 50th wedding anniversary celebration. The choice of where to live will impact your life less than each decision you make to engage in the opportunities that place offers. And while your choice to overcome the occasional large obstacle in life may get you the most accolades, you’re far less likely to make that choice if you haven’t made a habit of meeting daily small obstacles head-on with grace and courage.

Perhaps that’s why little Matthew chose to run that race; the difficulties he has to overcome every day so honed his character that he looked at the race and, instead of thinking “I won’t even be able to compete with those kids,” said, “Ya know what? I think I can finish it. So why not try?”

The obstacles in my life are nothing compared to Matt’s, but I do have obstacles each day that I can choose to overcome.

I can complain about the instability of my life at present, or I can be excited about and grateful for the chance to watch God provide for me each day. (That ranks pretty high on my list of “Life lessons I wouldn’t mind knowing, but I really don’t want to have to learn.“)

I can spend my time bemoaning the fact that I’m not married, or I can focus on leveraging my extra time and resources to serve others, not to mention becoming someone I would be willing to marry (at this point, the odds of me choosing myself if I met me are about 50/50).

I wish I were a more sanctified person. I can spend a lot of time thinking about it and reading about it. . .but nothing is going to happen unless I choose to invest significant time and effort into my relationship with God, even when the payoff doesn’t seem immediate. My choice. My action. My result.

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