Friday, May 6, 2011

In which we deal with choices and challenges

We're facing a problem that I'm not, as yet, at liberty to describe. It's one of those gut-groaners, the kind that makes other folks go a bit blank when you tell them. Not life-threatening, but life-altering. There are ways to work on it, ways to deal with it. So that's what we'll do. I mean, what choice do we have? [Insert Jewish mother's voice here:] We should run around like headless chickens?

I've often suspected that despite our nationwide addiction to having abundant choices on everything from vacation destinations to nail clippers, most of the real decisions in life are T-intersections. You can rise to the task at hand, or not. You can knit your family closer together, or let people drift apart. You can grow closer to God, or push him away. You can be generous of heart, or fold in on yourself. You can learn how to cope, or expect others to cope with your lack of coping. '

Hence I find that having a few simple rules of life helps with making good choices. Back when I was single and life ran on a spectrum from self-centered to self-indulged, I had one rule of thumb:

Never do anything you wouldn't want to see in a headline in the New York Post

It kept me out of a lot of trouble.

When I got married I made up a simple rule of thumb for conflict:

Always do what will strengthen the marriage in the long run. 

It's made apologies and tongue-biting a lot easier. It's shortened the sulk-cycle, and improved my forgiving-ness.

When it comes to dealing with major crises and thorny problems and eye-crossing difficulties, my rule of thumb is this:

The question isn't what's the best thing to do, but what's the right thing to do.

Maybe it's age talking here, but I am utterly certain that I don't know -- can't know, will never know -- the best solution to any given problem. I do all the necessary legwork, and gather all the right information, and figure out what I think is the best path. But I am not omniscient. Invariably I find out information later that would have colored or changed my decision. I know: it's happened many, many times.

So I've kind of given up on getting too attached to particular solutions.I've learned that it's far, far better to focus on being the kind of person I want to be than to hyper-focus on the kind of outcome I desire. I do the best I can with the information I have, and then to say my most-often-used prayer:

Here's what I think. If You have a better plan, make it clear, Lord. Just make it clear.



  1. One perspective on choices: After a year in China, Doug and I took the trans-Siberian railway and fetched up in (then) West Berlin. We wandered into a supermarket for something to make a meal out of, and were reduced to complete helplessness at the prospect of choosing among an entire wall of chocolate products, and another of cereals.

  2. I know God will lead. I trust you will follow. And I'm sorry the road isn't smooth.

  3. Uh, oh. Sorry for the new, big challenge. Wise words, though. Praying for you this morning!


  4. In my women's study group, we always talk about that "neon sign" from God wherein the answer will be loud and clear. I hope you find yours soon.
    Cathy S

  5. Oh, Cathy! I daydream of neon arrows, flashing brilliantly to point me in the right direction, all the while knowing that one can be guided by nothing more than a pinprick of light in the sky. Part of the challenge is being comfortable enough in the darkness of our discomfort for our eyes to discern where that glimmer of light lies.