I recently attended a workshop on marriage taught by Ted Cunningham. He stated that there is power in making a decision. He was talking about unmarried couples who come into his office for counseling. He said they often tell him they never made a specific decision to live together. They just slid into it. They went on a few dates, then began to go back to one of their apartments after their dates. Before long, they began to have sex and for convenience sake, they began to spend the night occasionally. Then, they started bringing over a few things at a time. It happened more and more often until one had completely moved in. Next they bought a dog or had a baby and were in a relationship with joint ownership of a child or a pet with no commitment. These couples then come to see Ted when one feels convicted and wants to marry and one doesn't. He often asks them if they had purposefully made decisions along the way if they think they would still be together. Many of them say, "no."
As I was listening to him talk about the power of a decision, I realized how many areas of life we tend to slide through. When we do that we end up in situations that violate our consciences, which result in our sinning against God, which result in our doing things that are detrimental to our health, or destroy our relationships.
The first time I became aware of this concept was when one of our kids was hanging out with some friends whose parents' rules were stricter than ours. We had tried to convey to him to respect all parents' rules. One night I gave my son permission to go with his friends somewhere, not knowing the other parents told their kids, "no." They went, but when the kids dropped off our son, their parents were waiting in their car outside of our house. The next day I could tell our son was struggling and took him to lunch to ask about the night before. He said they went where they had permission to go and ended up through a series of little choices doing things the boys didn't have permission to do. He said they didn't overtly make the decision to disobey, that one thing led to another. He said he had felt convicted at one point and knew they shouldn't be there. He didn't encourage the boys to disobey, but did not say, "no" either. He apologized to the parents, but sadly, they believed our son betrayed their trust and didn't let him hang out with their kids anymore. All of them were great kids and usually responsible and respectful as a group. They just slid, not realizing they needed to be making decisions to do good and right on a daily, hourly, and moment by moment basis.
In my own life I identify "the sliding" in all sorts of areas. My husband and I can slide into laziness in our marriage. We can fail to be proactive about loving each other well and fail to nurture our marriage. We never decide to not express love, nor do we make a conscience decision to neglect our marriage; we just slide into patterns during busy seasons and don't regroup. When we do that we hurt each other and fail to love the way God wants us to love. We don't intentionally decide to neglect our marriage, we just skip doing those little things and big things that strengthen our marriage and make it one that reflects Christ's love for His church. We have to decide daily to be proactive, not just slide along. We must choose to love well, to pray for one another, to be fully committed to each other, to guard our hearts and our minds, and to seek counseling when we get stuck. Even more importantly, in the process of conflict resolution, we must continuously decide to not fight each other, but to passionately fight for our marriage.
I have also seen the sliding pattern in my struggle with a long term eating disorder. I never made the decision to have an eating disorder, it started in high school with a fad diet when I wanted to lose a few pounds. Then after a traumatic event, it slid slowly into unhealthy compulsions to over-exercise and not heed my body's signals of hunger. It grew worse as I found I could avoid emotional pain by focusing on the numbers on the scale or the numbers on a dress label. It continued for some time because I felt powerful and a false sense of being spiritual as I didn't "need" food and had such great self-control. Then periods of dieting followed by periods of binge eating, both of which became a way of coping were so automatic, that if I was making decisions, they were at a subconscious level. When I entered counseling, I had to work hard to relearn to make those daily, hourly, and even moment-by-moment choices to feel, to choose health over starving, compulsive eating, and exercise. I had to consciously acknowledge God by eating what He provided. I still choose to decide to guard my heart by not reading about diets and weight management and refuse to look at magazines with airbrushed photo's that trigger my unhealthy thinking. I decide to process feelings that trigger the desire to starve or binge. I decide to proactively take every thought captive to Christ's truth or this hot mess will be sliding back into self-contemptuous thoughts and self destructive behaviors.
It is also easy for us all to slide in our commitment to the church. Some slide into the habit of not attending church regularly. It begins with one Sunday and then it becomes a couple of weeks in a row and then before we know it, we haven't been in months. Then pride sometimes makes it difficult for us to go back. Some slide into the habit of not using their gifts to serve the body. It could be a busy season in life or just that they took a needed break and just never made the decision to plug back in. Some slide into holding grudges by not working quickly through conflicts that happen when believers rub shoulders. Maybe someone got angry and wanted to process it before they dealt with it and before they knew it, so much time passed, it seemed inappropriate to resolve it. Sometimes churches let overt sin slide, causing many to get wounded. Some slide into disconnected states in which they do not care for or receive care from others in the body. It can start with business. We may even think about calling someone and just let it slide. We may be disconnected because we are going through difficult times emotionally and just let it slide instead of resolving pain that keeps us from wanting to attend church.
I had five children in eight years and I look back and realize we often slid into business. In retrospect, had we not slid through much of life, we could have made conscious decisions that would have been better for my kids, us as a couple, and helped us to really use the gifts God gave us, rather than living a frantic pace to which God never called us. We slid into business to the point we didn't see and attend to some of the needs our growing family had. As a Christian woman, that business kept me from things I needed to be a healthy mom--things like building relationships with other moms who loved the Lord and desired to grow as believers, as wives, as moms, and as daughters trying to navigate complicated extended family relationships.
We can all slip into sinful patterns. Seldom do we choose to become addicted to porn, alcohol, and drugs. Seldom do we wake up first thing in the morning and plan to destroy another's heart with gossip. Seldom do we wake up and plan to destroy our family through adultery, through drug addictions, or through illegal activity. The list could go on and on.
I had a friend who was encouraging me to make a needed change and I was being very indecisive about it. The friend gently pointed out that no decision was in itself a decision and that there was more power in making an actual decision. I thought about it and realized they were right. Living with lots of indecision was a way that I could avoid taking responsibility for my choices. The avoidance came out of fear--fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of hurting others, the fear of disappointing someone, and the fear of God being unhappy with me. I have since learned a lot about living in grace and truth and am realizing that I can live life honoring God when I choose to make daily, hourly, and moment by moment decisions to honor Him. When I put on the armor of God daily and ask God to mold me and to live through me and trust Him to do so. When I make and own my choices, I know I sin less, manage the eating disorder better, have more joy, and give more attention to my relationships. My relationships are more godly when I consciously make decisions daily to honor Jesus, to live out of self respect, and love others well. Finally, powerlessness--that emotion that can so easily trip me up is minimized when I am proactively making decisions to honor God.
Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!