When I was younger my mom sometimes took us on long walks to our local Tim Hortons where my brothers and I would each get a donut. It always took me a while to choose my donut. It probably only took a few minutes in reality, but over time, as my family shares this story, the time gets longer and longer. Today, if you heard my brothers talk about it, you’d think we spent half the day there. Nevertheless, I struggled with indecision. I didn’t want to pick the wrong donut even if it meant holding up the whole line at Tim Hortons. What if my donut wasn’t big enough or had too few sprinkles? What if I missed out on a sprinklier donut!
I have always struggled with indecision. And as an adult, I’ve found that adding God to my decisions can be even more paralyzing than picking a donut. Now I have to factor in that my decision is being watched and even judged by the God who formed the foundation of the world. What if I make the wrong choice and disappoint God; the one who sent his Son to die for me? How do I know if this program is the right one for me? How do I know what jobs to apply for or which one to accept if they offer me the position? Can God use me even if I pick the wrong school?
Making the “right” choice
Even worse than making decisions with God watching is living with the decision after I’ve made it. How do I know I made the right choice? Within a few years of high school my friends had graduated from various colleges and universities, married each other, moved to the country, and started having babies. After high school I worked for two years and then got a three year diploma in four years. Add another two years of university and I felt like I was years behind everyone. It was hard to believe that I made all the right choices. I felt like God must have had a better plan, a plan A for my life that I somehow missed along the way.
There is this belief in Christianity that God has a “best” plan in mind for us. This belief tells us that when we follow this plan we’ll live a wonderful life full of joy in Christ no matter what comes. The existence of a best plan, though, implies that there are second-best plans and even a worst plan. Second-best plans can still be good, but not the best plans we could be living. We live God’s second-best plan when we are faced with two or more good options, but pick the one God didn’t want us to pick. At least, this is what’s often in my head when I wonder about all of my past decisions. I think that I’ve probably made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on God’s plan B, plan C, or even plan D.
The truth, however, is that God’s plans for our lives are not messed up by our poor choices. God is not surprised when we pick a certain program or take one job over another one. In fact, my idea of God being a supernatural choice moderator has no basis in scripture. We don’t find a God in scripture who hides the information we need to make the best choice, and then judges us when we make the wrong one. We don’t see a God in scripture who is frustrated that his plans are being ruined by my choices. Instead, we see a loving Father who allows us to make real choices with real consequences. He gives us moral guidelines and wisdom to consider, but ultimately allows us to make the choices. Even when we make what appears to be the wrong choice, we can see that God can work it out for his good. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and we can all agree that doesn’t exactly sound like anybody’s plan A. However, at the end of the story we see that, as Joseph puts it, “You (the brothers) meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” God is not held back by poor choices.
God can redeem your choices
We only have to look at Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus to see how God works good things from objectively bad choices. Jesus’ line is wrought with sinful people whose sin directly influenced Jesus’ birth. Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, an action which God used to bring him to marry Leah. Leah was given to Jacob under false pretences, but God gave her her son Judah. Judah sinned by sleeping with his sons’ (yes the apostrophe is in the right place) wife, but God used that action to bring about the birth of Perez. Rahab was a prostitute, but she gave birth to Boaz who was the great grandfather of David. David, of course, slept with one of his best warrior’s wives, then had him killed when the wife became pregnant. A later son born to her was Solomon. It would be hard to mention, as well, all the sinful things the kings of Judah did, but suffice it to say Jesus’ line is wrought with terrible decisions. Yet, none of this was God’s plan B. God used these people and their decisions to bring about his best plan ever: the birth of the Messiah.
What does this mean for you? It means that you can’t mess up God’s plan for your life! You actually don’t have the power to do that. When you’re picking between two schools or jobs or deciding whether to marry this person or not, you have the freedom to choose either way. If God can redeem the objectively bad choices of the people in the bible, surely he can redeem any choice we make between two good options. God is not surprised by your choice nor does it mess up his plan for you! Truth like this makes it possible to live free from the paralyzing nature of choices. You can be free from the fear that your choices will destroy you. A loving and powerful God is making sure that you don’t live outside of his plans.
The only wrong choice is to not choose at all. Bonhoeffer is quoted as saying, “to delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love.” What does he mean by that? Indecision is worse than making the wrong choice because indecision is not based on faith and love. Indecision shows my failure to trust that God will work out my choices for good. Indecision shows that I would rather save myself rather than risk a wrong choice out of love for others. In the end a “lesser” donut is better than no donut at all.
So just go ahead and choose a donut. It’ll be okay.