"Harrison isn’t bad,” my four-year-old grandson Aidan informed me one day on the way home from preschool. "But sometimes he makes bad choices.”
This wasn’t news, even to me. You see, Harrison is a classmate of Aidan’s, and ever since they were toddlers I’ve been hearing tales of his antics. Apparently this little guy is a real handful. You know – not taking turns, making messes, ignoring instructions, pushing and shoving in line, that sort of thing. Anyway, early on my insightful daughter, who had to make the best of this challenging situation, decided that while it was important to steer her own impressionable son away from the inevitable negative influences of this troublemaker, it was equally important to teach him to judge the action, rather than the person. Hence the philosophy she imparted to Aidan, that his friend Harrison wasn’t bad himself, but the choices he made certainly were. Consequently at the ripe old age of four, Aidan now fully understands the difference between good choices and bad choices in terms of his own behavior.
It’s such a profound concept, and believe me, one that is not limited to the preschool set. What got me thinking about this today was something I ran across in my Bible. A couple of years ago I participated in a study of King David, led by the wonderful Bible teacher Kay Arthur. In this particular passage, David had sent his armies off to war but had remained at home himself. Not surprisingly, he soon got bored and restless, which led to mischief; and in this case mischief had a name – Bathsheba. As we read the account from 2 Samuel 11 in our study, Kay had us draw a + sign at every place David stood at a "crossroad” between two courses of action. Looking back in the margin of my Bible this morning, I saw that I had written at least six +’s in that chapter alone, and (spoiler alert!) in every one of those instances David, who was perhaps one of the godliest men in all of scripture, "made bad choices” as Aidan would say.
I don’t know about you, but I wince whenever I hear that phrase because of how many times in my own life – or for that matter, my day – I do the very same thing. Sometimes it’s just an unwise decision, like yesterday when I tried to tackle a home improvement project. I knew good and well it was over my head but I did it anyway. (I’d love to tell you more, but my husband tends to read these articles and while I may have been dumb enough to make the mess that I did, I’m not stupid enough to spell it out for him!)
Other times I see an item in a store that I don’t need, but I end up buying it anyway – although later I can’t even enjoy it for feeling so guilty about the purchase. Or I’ll be flipping channels on TV and stumble upon a program that I probably shouldn’t waste time watching, but can’t seem to turn off. And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve ordered something fattening or unhealthy at a restaurant, and literally regretted it before my food was served to me.
But the most compelling example of this principle is in the words that come out of my mouth, for at no other time do I seem to choose so poorly. Much as I hate to admit it, I tend to gossip; and I always manage to somehow twist every conversation back around to myself. I’m also guilty of giving way too much unsolicited advice; and let’s not forget how often I’m too timid to speak out; or worse, how often I talk too much when a friend really just needs for me to shut up and listen. I could go on and on but, well, you get the idea.
My point is that like everybody else, I face a never-ending wave of decisions. Some are profound and potentially life-changing. Others are small, and come at me unexpectedly. (Oddly enough these are the ones I seem to struggle with most.) But regardless of size or scope, I need to do a better job of handling them, so here’s what I’ve decided to do: Starting now, I’m going to picture in my mind a written account of my day, and in the margin I will mentally draw a little + every time I stand at a crossroad. And at the end of the day, hopefully, hopefully, I can look back and say "I made good choices.”
"…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 15