4/05/2008

The Place of Decision

Sometimes I imagine a large white room. The floors are cold plastic tile, and you wish for a leather chair and deep carpet. The high ceilings give no sense of place or comfort. The lone furniture is a metal folding chair. Sheets of paper covered in 10-font print lie strewn across the floor.

Several dozen doors line the walls. They have peepholes, which allow one to see about a foot beyond but not much more. The metal doors are gray, but you rarely see that because each is covered in hundreds of bits of paper, the type with sticky backing loved by secretaries. These sticky notes are either blue or red. In varying types of handwritten urgency, they make their case.

“It would make Mom happy!” says one blue sheet on a particular door. Directly next to it is a foreboding red, suggesting, “My dad would be secretly embarrassed.”

Moving from door to door, you realize you are in the Place of Decision. The room is the state of mind we all must enter when a time for choosing comes. Perhaps yours is more comforting than mine, but of course I only know my own little corner of the world.

Each door is one answer to the decision at hand. Some are locked- they are not options this time around. Some are unlocked. However, you can only walk through one. And you must first be confronted by those infernal bits of paper. Blue bits are reasons this door is a good one, red bits are reasons it is not.

How do you choose?

Some go by color. Do blues outweigh reds?
Some are cautious. Does this door contain as few reds as possible?
Some are cantankerous. Choose the door with the most reds! It’s the only way I can feel unique!

The variations are, of course, quite endless. I imagine some go to the doors one at a time, peel off all the notes, and sit squirming in the metal chair as they shuffle through each note, one at a time. Some arrogantly pick a single note off the door and ignore the others. Some take the notes to a wall and arrange a hierarchy, designing a system that puts the key considerations at the top. Some simply ignore the doors, and wait until all but one are locked from the outside.

Amidst the diversity of approaches, one universal truth stands out. We must choose. Nobody gets to avoid the Place of Decision; no one can be given a long and unaltered hallway. We must choose.

My room, my Place of Decision, is ugly. It is cold and frustrating and I do not like to be there. And yet it is not a room you can leave behind. Each new wrinkle of life brings me back to that room to face decisions with varying degrees of importance.

So then, let us pretend for a moment that I am a wise man. I am in this room ALL THE TIME. What should I do? Why, I should make it a more comfortable and more efficient place. I should organize and upgrade. I should not allow such a significant portion of my life to be so physically and spiritually empty.

How will this be done? Answer: The Right Tools.

My Place of Decision should be filled with helpful tools and furniture, things that bring guidance and wisdom in accordance with my life commitments. These include;

-a prayer bench with two permanent imprints in the cushions
-a worn and dog-eared Bible
-a telephone with wise mentors on speed dial
-shelves of books, to interact with great minds of the past
-an easy-access door (with no lock) for a close friend
-a diary and family photo album

Much could be said about these items, and about other things for improving my room. That is a discussion for another day. For now, let me emphasize that these items must be IN the Place of Decision.

Too often, we leave these things outside, while life is smooth and relatively free of hard decisions. Then, when we are forced into the Place of Decision, it is cold and barren and scary and stressful. Our furniture is forgotten and ignored.

And so, alone and distressed, we fight through red and blue sticky notes one at a time. By ourselves.

When we live this way, why are we surprised to feel as though God has left us alone?

2 comments:

Luis Carlos Reyes said...

Nonsense. The door you "choose" has been foreordained from all eternity.

Ben Bartlett said...

Cute as always, Luis!

Though I have to admit, it's a bit funny for someone so poetic as you to not appreciate the paradoxical nature of true Calvinist theology. What would Milton say?