Tag Archives: Choice

Kate’s Magic 8 Ball

Kate, circa 1986:

Magic 8 Ball, will I ever have a house with secret tunnels and an elevator?  Don’t count on it.

Will I live among gypsies in Spain?  My sources say no.

Be a teacher?  You may rely on it.

Marry the red-headed boy?  Outlook not so good.

Write a best-seller?  (Magic 8 Ball laughs hysterically.)  

Me:  Is this thing broken?

When you think about it, all of the deep questions we have about the future boil down to yes or no.  The combinations may be endlessly complicated (will my house in Spain among the gypsies have secret tunnels and will I be a novelist with red-headed children or a spinster teacher with 22 dogs) but bit by bit, they are all yes or no questions.  Well, duh!  But this is an important point.

That thing you want settled most right this minute is a binary proposition.  God, will I have children?  May I move to the mountains?  Should I go for a Ph.D?  Should I send my kids to boarding school in a far-away country?  For prayers big and small, we are waiting on a yes or a no.  (I’ve often heard  that the third option is “wait,” but really that’s just a slow yes, so we’re back to the first two.)  Two choices?  Gosh, that simplifies things.

Let’s take an easy example.  Take the boarding school question.  Let’s say your kids are driving you batty and you are really hoping for a yes.  You give the Magic 8 Ball a vigorous shake and it comes up “very doubtful.”  Well, bummer.  But you still have two options.

Option one: misery.  You look down the long years until they head off to college and realize that, nope, it’s not likely they are going to graduate early.  Nary a prodigy in the bunch.  You have another dozen years to go, and you are going to wake up every single day with a scowl, refine your yelling abilities, pout, and complain to anyone standing nearby.

Option two: contentment.  The prospect of a dozen years of misery sounds kind of, shall we say, miserable, so you decide to breathe deep and be grateful.  You hang up some cat posters about silver linings and cups half full and buck up.

But what if the Magic 8 Ball magically offers you positive words?  “It is decidedly so.  Without a doubt.  As I see it, yes.”  Now what?  You still have two options.

What will you choose in the waiting?  Misery, or hope?

Think about the big prayer of your heart ten years ago, twenty.  What was the answer?  What did you do with it?

Did misery ever add a day to your life, worry a happy hour to your day?  Was joy less joyful when you chose to be present in a good moment instead of bracing for a bad?  How many times do we wish for a time machine while we wait?  But even if you could see the future, you’re still looking at a pair of simple options.  It’s either going to be a yes, or it’s going to be a no.  And either way, you’ll have a choice.

I’m starting on a read-the-Bible in a year plan (check it out here — this is a great little app) and for a few days have been following Abraham’s story.  Now here was a guy facing a sloooow yes.

Abraham:  God, will I have children?

God:  Yes.

Abraham:  I’m like, old.

God:  Definitely not getting any younger.

Sarah:  I’ve got an idea.  There’s this maid…

Abraham:  That’s genius!

God:  sighs.

Abraham (like me) has trouble waiting joyfully.  I mean, he does wait.  Just not very placidly.  Maybe he paces a little, kicks things.  He and Sarah brainstorm a great way to give God a hand that involves sleeping with the help and goes, as expected, badly.  What if he’d just… waited?

What if I trusted, hoped, but didn’t spend all my time looking ahead?  What if I looked around instead, noticed the small gifts, embraced the season?  What if I chose life?

Abraham and Sarah’s ache was deep, as all the childless know.  There is a waiting — for healing, for reconciliation, for validation, even for death — that is painful.  No cat poster can fix what’s happening behind half the doors on your street.  And yet, no one can take away the choice we all have, every day.  Deuteronomy 30:19-20 lays it out.  “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…”

So what’s the big question bugging you today?  Maybe it’s yes, maybe it’s no.

What will you do with it?

Sticking it to the To-Do List

Wildgänse im Flug, A skein of greylag geese.
Wildgänse im Flug, A skein of greylag geese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning I read an Ann Voskamp quote saying that the remedy for anxiety is worship, or something to that effect. So true. To be full of wonder — wonderfull — how can the to-do list retain its power to freeze the veins? How can the But Gods crush and conquer?

There is a very real list of things unfinished, important, urgent even — a list of things blundered and things intimidating and things impossible — staring me in the face today. Standing at the back door with a cooling cup of coffee I can choose what to see. The porch in need of repair? The grill in need of cleaning? The fence sagging, neighbors’ house peeling, grass not growing? Or the tracery of branches across pale sky, geese in military formation (except for that one that can’t get it together), squirrel acrobatics? I can stare down the lists that march on my day or look past them to see the myriad opportunities for laughter.

Yesterday I told the Lord that what gets me down is choicelessness. The things I want to do I cannot do, the things I pine for are out of reach. If only I could make effectual choices, I could live with the consequences, I argued. (You can see I am happily delusional). Of course, it is harder to trust, to let someone else do the choosing, and yet isn’t that kind of the cornerstone of faith — that God chose me to dearly love? So I wiggle and squirm and finally relax and try to rest. OK, God. You choose. But still He graciously gives choice every day — choose light. Choose joy. Choose the lists with their ugly power, or brush past them and choose hope. Live wonderfull.

So today I praise. Two thousand years ago a young girl rounded with fear and trembling, hope and joy. The reasons to worry, the staredown of Impossible and Inadequate must have circled her tight and taunting. But in those months of waiting and uncertainty she threw back her head and hollered her choice: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”

Impossible? Pah! Nothing is impossible with God.