Life is full of choices. From what to eat for breakfast to whether to exercise, who to partner with to what to do with your life, we make choices that impact our lives. Some of those impacts are small. Some are life changing.
Typically we see only the things to which we choose to say yes. I ate oatmeal for breakfast. I run. I married Rich. I am a pastor. What we miss sometimes is that it is just as important what we choose to say no to as what we choose to embrace. In order to say yes to oatmeal, I had to choose to say no to all of the other possibilities available to me. When I chose to marry my husband, I was choosing to exclude other men. (Insert witty comment here about the endless number of suitors I disappointed.)
When I said yes to following the vocation of pastor, I laid aside other career options. It is vital to recognize this about our choices, because we have to own not only what we choose, but what we exclude. And that means once we make the choice, we don’t get to complain as though these realities just fell upon us. I am observing a particularly strict fast for Lent. I have found myself on more than one occasion thinking “I can’t eat that.” I chose this fast, so it isn’t that I can’t eat certain things, the truth is that I have chosen to set those foods aside. When I go for a run, and I’m feeling the burn, I have to remember no one is making me do this. No one forced me to marry my husband or to become a pastor. My choices, my responsibility.
Once we have made a choice, it is up to us to make the best of it. This can be scary because sometimes our choices lead to less than ideal outcomes. That is okay. Everyone makes choices they find challenging. What we need to decide next is whether to stay the course or go another route.
Some of our choices deserve our time and energy to stick it out and make it work. For me, ending my marriage over an argument or quitting my vocation because of a bad day are not options. Other choices bring rewards for persevering, like my running goals. We typically feel empowered when we face challenges with all of our resources and come out on top. Difficulty doesn’t have to mean defeat.
Thankfully, few choices in life are permanent. Breakfast comes again every morning. My fast will be over on April 20th. I get to look forward to new options when these choices have run their course.
Choose with intention, but choose boldly. Be willing to take risks, explore new paths and experience change. When you do, remember they were your choices and embrace the responsibility that comes with the freedom to direct your own life.