Tag Archives: decisions

House Cleaning

House Cleaning: My journey through Psalm (90)

They say that life is short, so you should play hard. While I believe there is a lot of value in that aphorism, I’m not sure that’s what God wants us to glean in the 70, 80, 90 years we live on this Earth. Lately, I’ve had to come to terms with that hard truth in more ways than one.

This past week was my first full week back to work. I mean real work. Not workdays, but work work. As in for 8 hours every day I have to be at the top of my game, I have to smile when I feel like screaming; I have to listen when I want to nap; I have to stand when all I want is a nice bubble bath and a glass of Cabernet. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love my students (more than they even realize), but the first week always feels like…the first week. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My brain hurts. And I love it. In my English 4 class, we read part of The Things They Carried, a fabulous book that chronicles the young protagonist’s time in Vietnam. It is painfully honest, and I focus on the chapter “On the Rainy River” with my students. These are seniors, who come to school this last year thinking they have it all figured out. Thinking they’re going to slack off and still walk across that stage. Thinking they’re done.

They’re not. And this short story helps me to prove it to them.

Let’s be honest, most our students know squat about the Vietnam war. Hell, I know only what I have researched. Even if you fought for (or against…) the Vietnam war, often there was so much confusion about WHAT you were fighting for that the reasons and logical sense of it got lost in the propaganda and manipulations. On both sides. Whatever sides those were. What my students DO know and understand is that no one, especially not 18-25 year olds, wants to be told what to do (side note, I know this from experience. I made some epic mistakes the past few years when it came to honesty and advice giving to this age group. I didn’t do it well. BUT I’m learning…). So, when a young man receives a draft notice, life comes at him quick in this short story and he’s left standing at a crossroads. What I particularly love about this story is the way that the protagonist addresses the paradox of decision making. For him, going to war was cowardly because he didn’t believe in the war and the only reason he went was that he was embarrassed by the possibility of people looking at him as a coward. Our society sees him as a hero for going to war and not running out on his patriotic duty, but he sees himself as a traitor to his own morality.

And life is like that.

It is short.

It is hard.

It is filled with decisions that will change the course of our entire reality; with peer pressure; with internal conflict that sometimes, will never be solved.

My seniors understand this.

I understand this.

I didn’t want them to just understand it. I wanted them to embrace it. Make it their own. So, the assignment was simple: make a map of the choices you have made over the past…4-5 years. It can even include choices you will make (like, after graduation). But you have to include the alternatives. You chose a path, follow that around, but reflect on the path you could have taken and how that might have made your life different. They don’t love this assignment. It forces them to reflect on things they may not like reflecting on. What they produce though, is pretty cool.

None of their maps are the same, but all of their maps show one thing: life is short. Our decisions matter.

I wish someone had given me the courage to look at my life this way as an 18-year-old, but it’s a lesson I am still learning to this day. And I think God wants us to embrace this. To understand that our decisions matter, so we should seek Him. Not so our journey can be easier. Nothing worth doing is easy, but so our journies matter. They become meaningful when we make purposeful decisions. When we ask God to “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12), we make our lives matter. We make a mark.

So, yes, life is short. Don’t just play hard. Don’t just take risks. Be wise. Make a mark.

Author and Perfector

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve chosen the right path. But then I suppose everyone has doubts about their life at some point or another. The fact of the matter is, we can’t ever be sure about every decision we make. When I was in college I watched a film called Run Lola Run (directed by Tom Tykwer).  The film centers on the idea that it’s not only the monumental decisions in our lives that shape who we become as much as every tiny decision we make—down to taking the time to tie our shoe or letting the laces flap in the breeze. These little moments can shape us as much if not more. The film shows the same event, three times with tiny changes that affect the overall outcome in enormous ways.

Which in turn reminds me of Esther. I’ve been studying this book and as I’m now in chapter 6, big decisions still hold value, but the tiny ones are every bit as important.

Esther had an opportunity to rock the Persian world. She was promised up to half the kingdom by her husband Xerxes if she asked for it—which though a figure of speech, is still a pretty amazing oath. She invites Xerxes and her mortal enemy, Hamen, to a banquet to make the request. At the banquet she has a number of options—decisions to make. And any one of them can alter the course of her personal history.

  • She could, like Herodias’ s daughter did for John the Baptist, ask for Hamen’s head on a platter (Problem solved!)
  • She could reveal Hamen’s evil plan—confront the beast head on (Uncovered, unfoiled, right?)
  • Wait (What? Why wait!?!)

The timing was right! Her life had been spared, the king had agreed to dinner—now hat do be the time. If Esther makes the request, the game is over. But she doesn’t. Like Lola, she stops to tie her shoe, altering the course of the future.

But that is a monumental decision, right? That’s certainly more than just tying her shoe. What happens next is what, combined with the monumental decisions, proving to me that our small decisions have just a great an effect on our lives as our big decisions.

That night, the king couldn’t sleep.

Now the king has some decisions to make. And he’s the King of Persia—he could get a glass of warm milk, count sheep, or he has over 100 concubines so I could think of a few things he could do on a sleepless night.

Instead he orders the chronicle of his reign to be read to him.

Well, now I can see why this might put you to sleep, but this decision becomes the peripety of the entire narrative, a seemingly insignificant event that changes the course of everything.

Elevating Mordecai in the king’s eyes just enough so that when Esther does reveal Hamen’s evil plan, the king doesn’t harbor resentment against his noble prince, but righteous indignation about the injustice done to his ally and queen. Outrage, not regret in the end result.

If Esther hadn’t waited? The sleepless night would have looked very different.

If he hadn’t read the chronicle? The timing may never have been right for Ether.

What kind of changes in history would we see if even one tiny decision had been made?

Every significant even has a place, but more importantly ever insignificant event does too. Our lives are arranged accidentally. They are carefully crafted and perfected to create individual lives and purposes that we can live to be proud of. When I write, I always start with a character: Andrea, Valerie, Clara, Lucy…How much more so does God start with us as characters crafting each even toward some kind of significant end? It’s only natural to question our decisions and actions, but in the end no matter what we choose—I’m comforted to know that the author and perfector of my faith is more than my calligrapher—He’s a master craftsman.

So sometimes I pray for a peripety.

A reversal of destiny—a change that will make its mark on me ant eh world.

Because you never know what decision today might lead to a monumental destiny tomorrow.