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January 2018
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Death by Option

I am drunk on options. From the first day my youthful eyes browsed the pages of Consumer Reports, I’ve been hooked. I’m sure my parents thought it was cute at first – what a responsible young boy, he already wants to make wise choices. Pouring over the pages of little red and black circles, perfectionism was my disease and research my salvation. So began my lifelong obsession.

Initially, my foray into this world was completely indiscriminate. When you are 12, there just isn’t much money to throw at choices. I quickly learned the local paper route does very little to boost discretionary income. Instead I focused on the people closest to me who did have financial backing behind their choices – my parents. Every time mom or dad needed a new microwave, TV, even a toaster, I was the resource.

Unfortunately the day quickly arrived when the summer job provided enough cash to feed my own choices. Of course, being a good Christian, I had a clearly developed justification: a faithful believer must be a good steward of his resources. And the best steward is the one who makes sure each purchase is perfect. This system worked flawlessly. For a while.

In an effort to bolster my justification, I learned to clearly define my enemy: the impulse shopper. With indifferent ease, their money blew away on the whims of flippant emotions. Not me. Calm, calculated and discerning, each purchase carried a pharisitical zeal of perfection.

The first cracks appeared when this obsession spilled into other areas of life. Caustic and pervasive, the need for perfectionism began to shape the entire lens I viewed life through. This marked a pivotal change; no longer a quirky hobby, my sense of joy and contentment depended upon making the absolute best choice possible. Even ridiculously simple things like picking a movie rental built great anxiety. What if it’s too slow, too violent, not funny. Often I would leave the rental store empty handed out of frustration.

Relationships suffered as well. Bringing this electron microscope level of evaluation upon another person provides an efficient route to arid romance. Instead of finding the beautiful and positive in a person, I became adept at ferreting out the smallest of flaws. This was the death knell. Something as innocent as a review of toasters in Consumer Reports had become a monster capable of commandeering my entire life.

I of course, am not alone.  I can’t be.  As a country we simply use a different term, we call it freedom.  This certainly rings a more patriotic tone, dying on the battlefield for options would hardly inspire the infantry.  Yet I struggle to find a signicant difference between the two. Perhaps therein lies the problem.  Freedom and options are such delightful blessings we approach them without restraint.   Money, though quite similar, is at least bridled by the clear warnings against greed.  Options presents itself as a virtue, slaps on a halo and never looks back. He demands a price of course. Your peace.

In return for the peace, we accept anxiety.  Here the devils plays his greatest sleight.  The very peace that freedom ought to bring us walks quietly away when we demand of it perfection.   The devil is no fool, he starts us with the noble choices.  Wondering if you picked the right school district for your kids, if the ministry you chose to serve in at church really fits your giftings. The list is long and uniquely tailored to each of us.

Every good biblical principal ought relate in some way to a man’s relationship with his dog.  This one is no different.  Toss a bone in front of a rottweiller and he’ll chew contentedly for hours.  Throw him a steak and toy as well, and he’ll enjoy none of them.  So excited by the options, the poor hound drowns in his own anxiety. Are we much different?

This must terribly annoy God.  I imagine He looks upon the vast majority of our decisions with utter exasperation.  With a hand on his forhead and a roll of his eyes, the options we languish under must drive him raving mad.  Not because he thinks they are unimportant, but because they suffocate the choices that He is really after.

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