On Sunday afternoons I’m generally spent. It’s not one thing, but rather a collision of things that turn me into a zombie about noon on Sunday. I don’t generally sleep well on Saturday nights and I get up at least an hour earlier on Sundays than any other day of the week. I’m emotionally tired from pouring myself into my art form – preaching – and then giving it away. And, even though I’m highly extroverted, I’m usually “peopled out.”
But, I’m also building a house right now, and I made the decision that I won’t work on the house on Sundays. Instead, I’ve committed to putting on my sweat pants, resting my body, taking a break, being present to my family, watching football, doing the crossword, napping on Sunday afternoons, and when the circumstance allow, being with people who fill me back up.
But, a couple weeks ago, I had a collision of conflicting principles. It was Sunday afternoon and it was beautiful outside (low 50’s, no clouds). And the forecasters were telling us another polar vortex would be descending upon most of the US in the coming days. And I told myself,”If I just had a couple hours to wrap up a couple things on the house I’d feel better about the upcoming week.”
And so, I got home from church, took off my jeans and put on my work pants (old, ratty jeans) with the intention of grabbing a quick bite to eat, then heading out to work on the house for 2-3 hours. But, as I started to put on my old sweatshirt, the decision to keep pushing my body on a Sunday didn’t feel right. So I took off the work jeans and got out my gray sweatpants (aka: “sabbath pants”). But then I felt guilty about not getting stuff done on the house. And then I just laid both pants side by side on the bed and stared at them.
Isn’t this what life looks like all the time? I guess sometimes the “right thing to do,” is obvious. But others times, not-so-much. Or maybe it’s obvious for some people, but it’s not always obvious to me. And I knew, standing at the foot of the bed whatever pair of pants I chose, I’d feel a little guilty about. I knew that whatever pants I chose, I would be justified. I knew that whatever pants I chose, my wife would support my decision.
I guess I feel this way about most decisions. Of course there are obvious, moral, slam-dunk things that you just do or don’t do. But most stuff that we seem to face is in the gray. It’s not clear. “What would Jesus Do?” isn’t really helpful in these kinds of things. It’s not easy. It’s not a moral choice. And so we just make the best decision we can in the moment.
And so I stood there for several minutes, at the foot of my bed, staring at my pants weighing out the arguments for and against, pros and cons. I even prayed a little and then studied the pants some more to see if either pair rippled gently indicating the right decision, but no dice. And then I got annoyed with myself that at 40 years old, I’m so indecisive about some of the simplest things sometimes.
And finally, I chose. I’m not sure if what I chose was right or wrong. I’m not sure if God applauded, or groaned, or if God even cared at all what I did with my Sunday afternoon. I’ve shared this story with a couple friends, who affirmed the decision I made. But I suspect they would have affirmed me if I made the other choice.
The point of this is that choosing the “best thing to do” is hard. Change a detail or two about that Sunday afternoon and I might have chosen differently. And if someone in the same dilemma asked me my advice, I probably would have known “the right thing to do,” in 2 seconds flat. But, I was reminded that decisions are hard and when asked to give advice I need to acknowledge that in other people.