Everyday life, Faith, Family

The Tyranny of Choice

I was frozen in the Barbie aisle with no relief in sight.

Did she say she wanted the one with the red dress or the blue dress?

A perky woman passed by and without a care in the world she reached for the winter-dress Barbie, double-checked her list, and threw the doll in her cart.

Darn it. Why didn’t I write it down when she said it?

I agonized for another few minutes, holding the blue in one hand and the red in the other.

Red. Blue. Red. Blue.

Nothing.

Granted, it had been a long day, but I have never been reduced to crying in the doll section before. There’s a first time for everything.

Merry Christmas.

The day after Todd and I came back from our honeymoon, we made our inaugural trip to the grocery store as a married couple. I would love to say we reached for the same loaf of bread and giggled at the way we were made for each other.

There was a sweet moment as I was walking through the hair section, trying to choose a shampoo and conditioner. I popped open a bottle and sniffed it. Todd smiled.

“I’m going to run and get some yogurt. I’ll be right back.” He said.

I closed the cap and reached for the next bottle.

“Okay.” I kissed him on the cheek and smiled back. I don’t know why I smiled. Nothing was cute about the situation, but looking back it may have been the fact that I weighed as much as your average fourth grader. That’s a reason to smile all in itself.

He walked out of sight and I continued my quest. A few minutes later I saw him at the end of the aisle, grinning from ear to ear at his precious bride.

“You ready?” He called down.

“Almost. Let me just look for a few more minutes.” I waved and he disappeared again. Adorable.

This continued for about six more passes.

“Ang?”

This time he looked afraid.

And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.

“Hmm? What? Hey-does this have a good vanilla smell or a bad vanilla smell?” I replied, oblivious to the look of man-panic that had overtaken him.

He hovered over the bottle and avoided eye contact, considering the fact that not only did he need to come up with the correct answer about $4 shampoo undertones, but also that he was looking at another 50 plus years of wandering around the store while crazy-pants sniffed for three hours.

It was, to say the least, a rude awakening.

Because quite frankly, you are ill-prepared for life when your biggest concerns involve 12A at all. I can’t imagine he was thinking about what a great mom I was going to be or all the ways I was going to live up to his expectations in everyday life. I mean, we were T minus 8 days into this sucker and I was already having a mental breakdown at Kroger. Fantastic.

As children filled our house, I got less particular about hair products. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle through decisions. I have had this issue for as long as I can remember, and I see it every single day.

I can’t choose.

Because that means that something is right and something is wrong. And all of a sudden I’m a third grader standing there with my lunchtray in my hands and the lady with the net in her hair is asking if I want grilled cheese or a burger. The line is piling up behind me and my hands are holding a sweaty pile of coins.

Choose, Angela. Choose.

I stutter my answer and then sat at the table, eyeing my lunch and realizing I wanted the grilled cheese instead.

It’s not just lunches and dolls, is it?

Simply stated, we are inundated with the tyranny of choice. 

How can a trip to the store turn out okay when you are faced with 57 grape jelly options? In what world is that necessary?

What if you get the reduced-sugar and it tastes horrible?

What if you married the wrong man?

It sounds like a drastic jump, but I don’t think it is. I’ve been convicted and overwhelmed by this holiday season and the Lord has been speaking to me clearly about the nature of my humanity and the fickleness that is bred by entitlement. I’m not going to speak for you, because I don’t know you. But I am going to tell you a little about my heart and if any of it resonates with you, I am praying the Lord will use this post to speak to you.

It started a long, long time ago, in a garden where what God planned wasn’t good enough for what they wanted. Even the first man and woman felt entitled to a choice. And as soon as they saw one presented, they jumped.

What they needed in that moment, they already had access to.

God. Only God.

I admit that standing in the middle of Target clutching two Barbie dolls and screaming, “I only need Jesus!!!!!!” might not have the desired impact. But, still. The sentiment exists.

The ugly truth is that the color of that stupid dress matters to Kate. At least I thought it did. She probably doesn’t remember. But it made me ask myself if I was fostering a sense of entitlement in my children, not necessarily by giving them too much, but instead, too many.

Choices, that is.

I have a degree in developmental psychology. I won’t bore you with my GPA or my thesis topic, but I will say that I did pretty well and I think I’m a fairly smart cookie. I’ve read almost every parenting book that exists on planet Earth, and I do know that choices are important to help our children form opinions and feel autonomy.

Kate is not an easy child. She is strong-willed to the degree that water is damp.

I’m the first to admit it. And the last one to fall asleep crying because I am simply worn out. She is a walking litmus test for patience. And I fail regularly.

But I see something in her that breaks me because she can’t help herself any more than I can get that Tuesday burger special back.

I want her to know that she hasn’t failed me because she made a wrong choice.

She has inherited more than my dark brown eyes.

She is paralyzed by the choices of the world, and one stop at the dollar spot will put her in a tailspin for hours.

Yes, I’m talking about “stuff” here, but really, deep down underneath it all, it’s not just “stuff.”

It’s the voice inside us that longs for the other tree. 

Not just in marriage, but in our jobs, our schedules, our finances, our homes, our cars, our parenting style.

We are so tempted to believe that we are one step away from the thing that makes everything else go away. And if we can smell every single bottle of cheap shampoo we can get our hands on, we might find the one that makes him love us more.

I’m humbling myself here, friends. Not because I like the way it feels, but because I don’t.

I don’t want to spend my entire life worrying about the nit-picky stuff, because the more I do, the more I am convinced that I have a right to have a say in everything.

We live in a drive-thru, speed-dial, three different Walgreens in a half-mile radius kind of world. It doesn’t have to be bad. But it could be terrible.

Last week, after an afternoon of coat-shopping that could make Mother Theresa lose her mind, I realized that it should make her lose her mind. It’s stupid to let nine-year-olds chose their coats. I’m paying for it, and they are, you know, NINE.

Don’t think I’m saying you can’t give them choices, but rather, when they expect a choice in every situation, you need to reassess. I don’t know about you, but I’m hot and bothered when I don’t have options.

And today, God told me something that I want you to hear.

If you need to, go shout it from the ends of every aisle in town, and don’t stop until everyone is staring at you like your head is on fire.

He is enough. You have the ear of the One who created the heavens and spun stars into their places.

And when I came home with three coats that I chose for my daughters, I smiled when they tried them on and danced around the living room, thanking me and saying they loved them.

I don’t remember which Barbie she wants.

I also don’t remember the reason I thought it mattered all that much.

I don’t need a thousand choices in this life. I need Him.

I’m desperate for Him, actually.

And this season, when you are tempted to feel overwhelmed by what I am assuming are first-world problems, whisper that word under your breath until you feel your bones ache with truth. Him. Him. Him.

And you know what?

No matter how hard it is to imagine with all of the bazillions of people to walk this globe, He chose you.

You.

He just walked in the door and handed you the gift you didn’t know you needed and now you can’t imagine life without it. There’s no time to wonder about what else He could have given you. It’s irrelevant. And because it’s irrelevant, it is also spectacular.

He gave Himself.

Live a life that loves Him back.

Merry Christmas to every single one of you….

Choose well.

All my love~

Angie

If any of this post resonated with you, I hasten to say you need to order this new book (7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess) by my friend Jen Hatmaker. No, she doesn’t know I’m writing this and it isn’t a sales pitch 🙂 I believe in her message and I think you will be blessed by it…in fact, you don’t have a choice. Just click over and buy it 🙂

 

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