Wasps. Small-talk. Admin. Deadlines. Phone-calls from numbers I don’t recognise, (Why are you calling me? Has somebody died?) And
Given that each day is made up of choices, this can be a problem.
Big ones (relationships, life choices, money etc). But small ones too. Blue socks or green? Muesli or Weetabix?
Ordering a coffee:
E: Oh – hi. Fine, I think. Actually I’m knackered. You? Great. Er – what did you ask me again? Drink. Yes. Something cold. Actually no – caffeine. A coffee.
Barista: Noproblem! Latte? Cappuccino? Americano? Flat white?
E: Coffee. Just a plain coffee.
Barista: Primo, grande or venti?
E: I’ll have a Vimto. Vento. Venti? Yes, grand. Not grande, grand – as in good. Never mind.
Barista: Arabian or Guavan?
E: Irish. Northern Irish. Grand is an adjective –
E: Barista: Ho ho. Not you – the bean. Coffee bean. Arabian or Guavan?
E: The first one. Brazilian. Wait – no, the second. Is that right?
Barista: Drink in or takeaway?
E: In but I quite like the paper c…
Barista: Space for milk?
E: Please stop.
Barista: Skinny? Soy?
E: Normal. Just normal milk. Cow. Not you! The milk –
Barista: Hot or cold?… (sensing weakness) Something to eat with that? Paying by card or cash? Contactless? Have you got a reward card? Would you like one? Would you like a receipt?
(Thudding noise as I start head butting the counter).
What is it that makes choices so stressful?
Sometimes it’s anxiety. Every choice feels like life or death and if I get it wrong, bad things will happen to me or those I love.
Sometimes it’s control. If I can make the Right Decision on This Issue, I can control everything else.
Sometimes it’s depression. I Don’t. Care. I can’t think straight. Everything is pointless anyway so what does it matter? Whatever I choose, it makes no difference.
Sometimes it’s tiredness. My brain is leaking and I haven’t got the energy to work through the possibilities, let alone how I feel about them.
Sometimes it’s desperation. I’m unhappy or scared or angry and I grasp at something, anything, to make it better.
Sometimes it’s insecurity. I don’t know who I am, so I don’t know what I want. The choices I should make represent the person I should be.
Most of the time, little decisions floor me. But occasionally, they don’t. Sometimes I do know what to do. The world seems brighter – and the small stuff takes its rightful place. I don’t make ‘the right decision’ but I make a decision and I move on.
And it’s not by trying very hard to choose rightly.
I’ve spent most of this week with my nephews (aged 8 and 10). Like most little boys, they sometimes get anxious. But not when they’re playing games. Ask them a question during Top Trumps and there’s no problem. Ask the same question when they’ve had time to think it over or they’re tired and hungry – and it’s a different story. Of course kids like games. But there’s wisdom here for adults too:
George Mueller (a 19th century Christian giant) wrote this, aged 76:
[I realised that] the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.
It’s the wisdom of age – and it’s beautifully childlike. When happy in Jesus, our choices are like the 10 year old, engrossed in his games, and able to pick fish fingers over sausages. When our souls forget Jesus, we’re paralysed and overwhelmed by choice.
So maybe part of making good choices is to forget about making good choices. Maybe we should focus on having souls that are happy in the Lord. Thankfully, Mueller tells us how:
What is the food of the inner man? …The word of God; and . . . not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.
So, as I start a new day and my wants and needs seem overwhelming –
it’s time to put down my lists, switch off the phone and open my Bible.
As Jesus said to a flustered Martha. “Mary has chosen what is best” – to sit at His feet and learn from Him (Luke 10:38-42). That’s the choice that decides the rest.