Keeping our Options Open

Decisions, Decisions

What decisions are you facing in this still-rather-new-year? Do you find yourself keeping your options open while your flitting mind tries to settle on one?

Job changes, school schedules, extra-curricular options, new projects seem to gang up and pounce as soon as we emerge from the Christmas holidays. Before long I have too many open files in my brain, causing trouble, much as they do on my digital device. They clog my decision making gears, sometimes sending it spiraling like the pinwheel of doom.

Indecision keeps me saying, “maybe,” “maybe not” or “Ok, just this once.” Ok, “just this once” is definitely a cop-out. I’m just kicking the decision down the road where it will become harder, not easier

The Courage of “No”

There’s a simple solution, of course. Close the files, one by one. Make those decisions, until our mind is cleared and we can focus on one thing at a time. Ah, but there’s the rub. That means I have to evaluate and decide–repeatedly–between options. I have to choose. And I hate that–choosing. I’d rather keep my options open.

Why? Because I lack courage. I don’t want to be responsible for such a definitive answer, especially a negative one. While I crave the closure that a “no” will give, I lack the gumption. I don’t want to disappoint people. I feel compelled to explain myself. So I overthink and vacillate and leave people hanging.

Who can help me? Of course this is a Christian blog, so the answer must be Jesus. True, but it’s still wonderful to turn from my fuzzy indecision and ponder the courage of his words.

The Power of “No”

The word “no” cut a swath through the earthly life of Jesus. As a human being, he limited his access to the Divine Omniscience and made decisions the way we do. He prayed and received guidance.

Mark 1:35-39 stands out. Jesus’ popularity was on the rise, the crowds swelling. Was he going to be swept along by public opinion or set his face to follow the Father’s will? He didn’t wait for the mob to gang up on him, but slipped away before they were awake:

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Mark 1:35

By the time Peter got to him to tell him that he was in demand, he already had his answer. He told them they would be moving on to the next town, “for that is why I came out.” The simple word “no” kept Jesus true to his mission. He had heard his Father’s answer.

“No” is the powerful–but difficult–little word that channels our energy, too, as we seek our Father’s guidance. Our lives become a single forceful stream, instead of a slow leak in many directions.

The Blessing of “No”

Though we understand its power, we still shrink from giving a firm “no” when it’s needed. We assume “yes” is a blessing and “no” is a curse. We feel a little apologetic. But for every “yes” we say, there must be an army of “no’s” surrounding it to protect it from being overrun. We must stand our ground.

Which is what Jesus did for us. Luke describes his fierce resolve:

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Luke 9:51

This wasn’t a popular move on Jesus’ part. The crowds actually began to turn away because of this. A village of the Samaritans didn’t receive him, though he tried to come to them. But contrary to his disciples’ vindictive call for judgment, Jesus didn’t blast them with fire from above. No. He turned and rebuked his disciples instead instead.

Jesus said “no” to judgment that day, because he had set his face toward Jerusalem, towards the day he would bear the fire from above for us.

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