Last year, I posted about my first struggle with writer’s block. What I discovered was that I was unable to create anything without being connected to the Father. This seems obvious to me now, and it’s probably obvious to you as well. It was a novel idea for me at the time. Since then, I’ve gone through the “Wretched Man” cycle a couple times, and each time, God’s shown himself to be faithful, gentle and always willing to teach. During my most recent walk through this, He revealed something I want to discuss with you.
I’m going to start with my working hypothesis. It is a starting point from which to engage conversation with each other and with God:
Every choice I make is a matter of life and death.
As i said earlier, I think God asked me to start thinking about this during my latest season of distance from Him. It was during Thanksgiving/Christmas. I was feeling terrible physically, emotionally and spiritually. I felt sick, I felt disconnected from God, I wasn’t pursuing Annie or my kids. I felt like I was dying. At some point a thought popped into my head, and I couldn’t get rid of it.
Insert cheesy, TV memory fade-in where the screen gets all blurry around the edges and a harp strums mysteriously: I don’t remember who was teaching at church, but I think it was one of our pastors (and my brother) Jay. “You need to reach a point where God becomes the one thing without which you die.” I’d like to acknowledge my imperfect memory at this juncture. I don’t know if that’s exactly what he said, but that’s what I heard. I don’t remember my reaction at the time, but it was probably a mix of “Yeah, of course that’s true.” and a fear of “What do I have to give up to make that reality?” K. Insert memory scene fade-out back to present day.
When this memory first came back to me I understood it to mean “You need to reach a point where you acknowledge that without God, you die.” I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Acknowledging it would mean sacrificing my own desires. It would mean having to change priorities. Acknowledgement would mean things would have to change, and the change would not be toward the fulfillment of my flesh’s desires.
Then it hit me. Regardless of whether I acknowledge it or not, God is the one thing without which I die. Every person on the planet dies without God. That means me. That means you.
I was dying because I was choosing to put distance between me and God. I wasn’t even necessarily choosing against God. But He wasn’t a priority. I wasn’t devoting time to my relationship with him, and that trickled down to all my other relationships. Again.
And that brings me back to my hypothesis. Is every choice I make really a matter of life and death? Right now, I’m not sure. The big stuff is pretty obvious. If I scream at my kids in anger, that’s death. If I look at pornography, that’s death. If I steal from my company, that’s death. Not that those choices are always easy, but their ramifications are fairly clear from the outset.
What about the “little” choices? The longer I ponder this, the more I think the little things have profound meaning in the long run. Am I going to make the snide remark to my coworker about the other guy? Am I going to read to my kids tonight? Am I going to watch this show? I know it seems nit-picky, but I feel like this stuff might really matter. I feel like these are life/death choices I overlook very easily. Which brings me to my next question.
Are there any neutral choices? I feel like there must be. What color socks am I gonna wear today? Which route am I going to take to/from work? Which gas pump am I going to pull into? Those seem fairly arbitrary and free of motivations and consequences. But are they? What if I want to take the long way home so I have a little more free time to myself before I have to engage my kids? What if I choose to go to the gas pump that doesn’t have a car on the other side just so I don’t have to risk talking to somebody? I can’t think of a motivation for the color of socks. But is there one?
I feel like the danger for me is when I let the life/death choices seep into the neutral zone. “I’ll read to the kids tomorrow. I’m too tired tonight,” might be a perfectly valid statement. It might also be a copout, and my kids have lost out on a little bit of life I could have spoken to them. Also, how many of my choices which currently reside in my neutral zone should really be in the life/death category?
All this has made me look at the life of Jesus. Did Jesus make a single arbitrary decision? I can’t think of one. Everything Jesus did was out of communion with the Father in a spirit of love and compassion for those around Him. He gave of Himself. He got away to be refreshed with His Father. As far as I can see, every choice Jesus made was life-giving.
So, where does that leave me? Part of me says I’m being neurotic and obsessive. Part of me says I’m on the right track, and every decision is really a matter of life and death. All of me says that human wisdom will not guide me well in any choices.
Proverbs 3:5-8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your path. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”
That sounds like life to me.