As I sit here avoiding the housework that needs to be done, my mind wanders to the effect that scarcity and abundance have on us. Much like the Pharisees, I feel like my abundant life gets in the way so much. Being born in a time and place of privilege, there are so many choices that it’s easy to become lost in them. I remember an NPR report I once heard with Barry Schwartz, the author of the Paradox of Choice. In this book he explores the concept that more choices doesn’t always mean a better life because we can get lost in our web of choices. The other day in Big Y, I was looking at bread and the man next to me said “There are so many choices.” I responded by saying, “I think it makes life harder for me” and he laughed. Barry Schwartz describes people as falling into two categories – maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers strive to make the best decisions; while satisficers are happy with good enough decisions. I identify greatly with being a maximizer, making simple decisions like which bread to choose at Big Y paralyzing at times. While a satisficer might just be able to walk into the store, grab a loaf of bread and go, I spend what seems like hours, reading labels, comparing prices, wondering if I should choose wheat or oat, high protein or low calorie, rolls or baguette. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you that there are days that I leave the store without something I intended to buy because I couldn’t make up my mind. And forget about things like purchasing a car, planning a vacation, or deciding whether to go back to school. I mull them over in my head over and over again, talking myself into and out of various options. So much time and energy wasted.
I long for simpler times – when we had only one choice of bread, when we weren’t told we could “do whatever we want when we grow up.” Sometimes I just want someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do. As a follower of Christ, I’ve heard so much of being who God wants me to be. And so I think about what my gifts and talents and passions are, pray and read my Bible looking for an answer.
I so desire to invest my gifts and talents for God’s glory so I want to get this right. But I think I’ve gotten it totally wrong. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” and Jeremiah 29:11 says ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”’ And instead of delighting myself in Him, I spend hours upon hours trying to figure out what His plan is for me. Should I go back to school and if so, what for? Should I write? Should I start a new Bible study? Should I be focusing on spending time with my husband and the kids? Hours have passed and I’ve gotten nowhere and is that really what He’s asking me to do? I like to think about how God has plans for a hope and a future but ignore the verse before which says “…When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” They had to wait seventy years to learn what God’s plans for a hope and a future were. In our fast paced culture, it’s difficult for me to wait seventy seconds for something let alone seventy years. My kids live in a world where the world is literally at their fingertips. They have a hard time understanding when there’s a TV show they can’t instantly watch, let alone understand a time when you had to walk to a well to get fresh water. And to have to wait seventy years to learn what the Lord was going to do. Waiting is SO hard! Jeremiah 29 continues on in verses 12-13 with the following: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So I’ve decided I’m going to try to be a satisficer. I’m going to accept that there are many “good enough” choices so that I can instead focus my time and attention on seeking Him with all of my heart as I know that in His time, He will make everything beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Prayers appreciated as this will not be easy for me!