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The Unconscious Choice

February 9, 2012

If you were to look back across your life right now, how much of it has happened the way you hoped it would? And how much of it has come as a bit of surprise?

I think most of us would say that our lives thus far probably haven’t gone totally to plan, and if you think yours has then you’re probably in the minority.

Some of the time the main reason for this is because of things that happen to us that are out of our control – for example a business owner gone bust could argue that it’s not his fault that things turned sour – after all how could he have predicted just how financially difficult the last few years were going to be.

But a lot of the time, I think we are probably more responsible than we’d like to admit. Our difficulties in life can often come about as a result of the unconscious choice.

Now we don’t tend to enjoy taking responsibility for mistakes – in fact we try our best, these days, to point the blame at someone else. However as a 27 year old man I want to learn to start taking responsibility for my own actions, and this includes my mistakes. In fact I would argue that one of the most foundational characteristics I need to have to be able to even call myself a man, is the ability to take responsibility for the things I choose to do and the things I choose not to do.

You may have noticed that I have just subtly introduced the theme of choice. This, of course, is hugely significant.

These days I’m not sure we’re too good at thinking through the implications of our actions; very often we end up in a sticky situation and perceive it to be a new problem when really it’s just the next step in a journey we have naively been walking.

Allow me to demonstrate with 3 brief examples.

I doubt very much that anyone would choose obesity as a lifestyle. But most often (although not always) it’s a step by step process, a journey, starting perhaps, with a greasy burger. The next step might be a cake, and then maybe the decision to not go for your regular morning run and then a month or two later after a series of poorly thought through choices you are surprised to find you’ve put on weight.

Similarly, I doubt anyone would choose to have a mouthful of fillings, but again the small choices can lead us to that destination. Eating too much sugar and failing to clean and floss end up dictating our dental future. “But who decided that fate?” I hear you cry; well we all did every time we take a small step without thinking through the consequences.

My last, and more upsetting, example comes from a movie that my wife and I were watching the other day. The film was called ‘Last Night’ and it depicted a couple who claimed they were happily married. This couple, however, on a night that they were both apart from each other, experienced sexual temptation with someone who wasn’t their spouse. Sadly they both massively let each other down, betraying their partners in one way or another. In the film even though the wife was able to eventually flee from the temptation of sleeping with another man, the husband wasn’t as strong and cheated on his wife.

However, if you were to ask him at the beginning of the movie “do you want to commit adultery?” I reckon he would have said “No, definitely not!” Unfortunately they were both guilty of taking very small steps in the wrong direction and by the time the husband was in the hotel room of the woman he’d been flirting with he was in too deep and unable to retreat. It was a step by step journey of poorly thought through decisions that cost this man his fidelity, and possibly his marriage.

So let me present you with this challenge today, are you thinking through the implications of the decisions you make?

In Psalm 40 (a book in the Old Testament) we are present with a situation that King David gives us:

“1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”

We can see here that King David found himself in a sticky situation. For a reason not entirely clear he finds himself in the pit of destruction, in a miry bog and in desperate need of rescue. Later on we read:

“12 For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.”

King David is telling us here that the reason he finds himself in a pit is that he has been guilty of some poor choices (in fact if you read more about King David you can see that he made some fairly large blunders). David talks about his own iniquity overtaking him – he’s telling us here, quite clearly, that he is to blame for his plight.

However despite his situation, after waiting on the Lord, salvation came to him. God not only drew him out of the pit that he was in, but put him on solid rock; making his steps secure!

If you are someone who perhaps recognises that they are in something of a pit as a result of some poor choices let me give you some amazing news! Not only can Jesus pull you up and out of that situation but he can teach you to keep your steps secure. He can give you the help and wisdom to learn how to walk a path that doesn’t lead to destruction.

In Psalm 23 King David also says this:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

I am so thankful for the difference this makes in my life; as without any shadow of a doubt I would be walking into one calamity after another without the help of the Good Shepherd.

So my encouragement to you today is to cultivate a lifestyle of thinking through your decisions and let your first decision to think through be this one:

“Given how often I find myself in a miry bog, do I really want to continue life without the help of the Good Shepherd?”

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