Did you ever know anyone who seemed to have no trouble making choices?
The thing I'm thinking about now is that we all make choices every day, if they could be called that. And these choices exist on several levels in our minds.
First level. I'm hungry. I will eat. Second level. MacDonald’s sounds good. I will go to MacDonald's. Third level. I could eat something here at home, but I like getting out of the house. Fourth level. I like living the American life of convenience. I will get something convenient. Fifth level. If I’m hungry I obviously should eat because those two things go together. Deepest level. I have needs and they are to be swiftly met by others.
Or it could follow another track.
First level. I’m hungry. I will eat. Second level. Taco Bell sounds good. I will go to Taco Bell. Third level. I could make something here at home, but I don’t have time to prepare something before I get to soccer practice, the bank, my hair appointment, and Radio Shack before it closes. I will get something quick. Fourth level. I could slow down and try to enjoy life, but quick things are better because I can get so much more done. Fifth level. My life consists of the things that I do. I will choose doing lots of things. Deepest level. My life is empty. Who or what will fill me up?
First level. I’m hungry. I will eat. Second level. Wendy’s sounds good. I will go to Wendy’s. Third level. I know it’s not the healthiest, but it tastes good. I will eat tasty food. Fourth level. When I eat healthy, I feel smart but when I eat tasty food I feel pampered. I will be pampered. Fifth level. I deserve to be pampered because of my country of birth (or my race or my gender or my household income…) And so on…
I guess I picked fast food because I imagine we all eat a lot of it (I know I do), and because we all probably choose it with little consideration. Nobody ever thinks these things through to the deepest levels. Maybe once a year does someone ask themselves, you know, why do I eat so much fast food? Or why is it so important to me to…? Or why do I always…? The deeper reasons are seated in our subconscious, or rather somewhere deep in our souls.
I wonder if Jesus lived that way.
Jesus and his class had an on-the-go lifestyle, and they did do fast food. They were known to pick grains as they passed through fields. But I have to wonder, did Jesus’ decision tree look like one of ours?
If you think about it, the deeper choice is a fountain feeding the shallower ones. The deeper choice sweeps the shallower choices along. The deeper choice is weightier. It matters more.
What if we lived from the deep instead of from the surface? What if we lived from our one heart instead of from our many faces? What if we didn’t wait for these external stimuli (hunger, gas prices, boss, commercials, peer pressure, whatever) to blow us around? What if we lived in the constant recognition that every choice was more or less a symptom, and not a cause? What if we rejected the idea that the value of our life is just the sum of our choices? What if we accepted the idea that every choice we make is only a brainchild of the big choice we’ve already made: what we are alive to and what we are dead to? Would that make a difference? Would it be a simpler way to live? a better way?
Jesus said no man can serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other or hate the one and love the other. He will be dead to one and alive to the other. Paul wrote a good bit about this idea of walking in life and death, of simultaneously living and dying in Romans 6-8.
I think Paul and Jesus picked up on something. I think they woke up every day knowing that they were both dead and alive. They woke up every day knowing, then, which things and people were dead and which were alive to them. They woke up every day knowing, then, that whatever choices they made that day were already made because they were just incidental. In other words, the choices that they were faced with on that day were just little versions of the choice they had already made. They were really just opportunities for them to confirm the choice they had already made. Now, I personally think the choices were clearer for Jesus than for Paul. Hence the need for a certain type of prayer.
I have asked people before how I could pray for them. Sometimes they say they need “wisdom” or direction” from God. And they sometimes have this idea that they need to make the “right” choice. Now I’ve heard all kinds of discussion on whether it’s a sin to make the wrong choice or if God doesn’t really care because it is all where your heart is, etc. But those discussions weary me.
Maybe if our prayer started with the question of what I’m alive to and what I’m dead to, then the fog of the choices today would come clear, lose a lot of their heaviness, and let the light in.
One of the results of living this way is freedom. If I know who I am to God, what role He has given me, what I’m alive to, and what I’m dead to, and I am content in that, then the so-called choices that come along every day are a light burden. I think I might even get to the place Jesus was—so free, so focused, so content, so confident, so careless, so care-full, so determined, so joyful.
But I don’t think I can get there at all by studying the Bible, identifying all the choices that might present themselves to me, and being prepared with a right answer for each of them. I do think I can get there by having a profound sense of who I am, what I am about, and what I’m alive to, and what I’m dead to.
But who do you know that is sure of their choices? I think Jesus was. And I think Jesus was because he made his priority knowing his life and his death instead of learning how to make good choices.
Jesus made himself what he is by deathing himself into the will of the eternal Father—thus plunging into the fountain of his own life, the everlasting Fatherhood, and taking the Godhead of the Son. – George MacDonald
All the other choices are just steps along the way.