Baptism. Breast feeding. Beards. Boxed Sets.
Tell me what to think and I can keep my brain in neutral. YES or NO. Anything but ‘maybe.’
‘Maybe’ is like boot camp for the brain. Hard graft, early starts and endless sweaty questions that often take you back where you started. Muddied, messy middle ground.
Well, I don’t like mess. I don’t want to have to work hard. I want to stand on the security of my own (good) choices. I want to say, ‘Christians do this. Christians don’t do that.’
But it’s not quite that simple. Let’s take family life as an example.
We struggle with infertility and the doctors suggest IVF. Is this “a right” option?
Our child is born and we have to decide: do we want “baptism” or “dedication?”
Education questions press in: home schooling? Christian school? Private? State? We can’t do nothing, but which choice is the Right one?
We pray, ask others and make our decision. I launch out boldly on the Correct Path, only to find that Christians who I love and respect have made very different choices …even though they too have prayed and asked for wise advice.
So how do I respond? Where do I take refuge when no decision seems safe?
Here are three tempting options:
My Cave. I could bed down and pretend it’s not happening. Out of fear at making the Wrong Decision, I could dig in my heels and make No Decision instead.
The Tightrope. I could decide that everything depends on the Right Choice and worry my way through every tiny choice, teetering between triumph and disaster.
The Wide Open Plain. Perhaps nothing is off limits. Aren’t we free in Christ? Maybe any decision is fine …after all, I don’t want to be legalistic…
I wonder which option appeals to you most. I like ’em all. I’ll start in my cave until a crisis drags me kicking and screaming to the tightrope. Then, after a week of anguished balancing I’m ready to pack it in and embrace the wide open plain – anything to escape the treadmill of Needing to be Right.
But perhaps there’s a fourth option. It’s one of the Bible’s most famous verses:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge [i.e. know] him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:4-5)
Here’s what we might call Walking In Christ.
It’s not motivated by fear of the cave – as we trust the Lord Jesus our life choices are stripped of their terror.
It’s not narrowness of the tightrope – the verse reminds us that we have “ways” plural, and they are our ways – so we are trusted to own our decisions.
It’s not the licence of the wide open plain – we are not meant to trust in “our own understanding.” And we don’t just do what comes naturally. We need to work against our natural prejudices when it comes to following the Lord.
The fourth way is to walk in Christ. And here’s the promise: He makes our paths straight. Not easy! But at least the pressure is now off. We don’t need to worry that “we’re in the wrong place and it’s all our fault.” Lots of things might have been our fault in the past but in Him we’re in exactly the right place. And He knows how to move us forwards.
I once heard of a university student who took a dilemma to her professor for guidance. The professor – a Christian – gave his advice and then, sensing that the student was still very anxious said “Don’t worry. Even if you make the Right Decision, you’re still forgiven.”
There’s no Right Decision that removes our need for Jesus. And there’s no Wrong Decision that He won’t forgive and turn to good. So what are we worried about? We have a righteousness that has nothing to do with our right choices and it stands firm in spite of our bad choices.
Now then, “in all our ways” we can know Him. Because ‘getting it right’ is not the point. Jesus is.