Deciding to Decide

Some people are fast decision-makers. Not me! I’ve been known to spend a couple of hours at the mall hunting for just the right item. Finally, after carefully choosing, I’ve stood in a long line of customers waiting my turn to pay. Then when the person ahead of me is handing over his money, I decide I don’t want to buy the item after all and step out of line, put the merchandise back on the shelf and leave the store empty-handed. Arriving home, I feel disgusted at myself for wasting so much time and now having nothing to show for it.

Jesus wasn’t wishy-washy. He didn’t hum and haw over what to do each day. He chose His direction for the day and then acted accordingly. If your standard answer to most questions is, “Well…. I don’t really know,” or, “Ummm, I’m not sure,” maybe it’s time to start acting more decisively, even if that feels unnatural to you.

I have found that with Jesus’ aid, I can decide… to decide! When I have to buy something, I can pray on the way to the store asking the Lord to help me find the item I need quickly and also help me to not agonize over the purchase. I say something like, “Lord, I have 30 minutes and I need a black skirt. Please help me with this.” Often, I’ve found the perfect skirt within the first 10 minutes of shopping. But then comes the hard work of deciding to not second guess my choice, looking at other racks, other stores, etc. It can be tough, but when I’m ruthless and don’t allow myself to indulge in indecision, I’m much happier in the long run. And… it gets easier the next time to speed up my choosing-process.

Slow decision-making can show itself in other ways. I’ve met many people through counseling, who have great difficulty ending a conversation. If you talk with them on the phone, or via Skype, or in person, they can’t seem to bring themselves to the point of saying, “Well, I need to go now. Nice talking with you. Good-bye.” They bring up topic after topic, and often repeat and rehash subjects that were already well-discussed. Coming to a conclusion… and then concluding the conversation drags on and on.

One of my favorite preachers is Lon Solomon who pastors McLean Bible Church in Virginia. He has become well-known for asking his congregation the simple question, “So what?” It is an attempt to encourage them to not only listen to good Biblical information, but then to decide to put it to practical use in their daily lives.

In conversations I try to move more quickly now to the “So what?” question. In other words, if we talk and talk about an issue, but never say, “In light of what we’ve discussed, here’s what we will do, or here’s what we’ve learned,” we’ve merely engaged in meaningless exchange of words. In general, I think that women are more guilty of this than men, although there are certainly plenty of exceptions. But females are notorious for verbal emotional re-runs. As the apostle James urges, we should not just be “hearers of the word, but also doers.” And I would add my own paraphrase, “Don’t just engage in meaningless chatter… make up your mind! Choose to do something!” It changes pointless dribble into determined purpose.

A third effect of indecisiveness is procrastination. Huge amounts of time can fly by and tasks can stretch out for weeks or months, simply because we won’t make up our minds to start. I have found that making use of minute-blocks actually helps me become more decisive. For example, perhaps I have a huge project looming over me. I’m finding it extremely difficult to make up my mind to get started. I bargain with myself, “Sharon, just take 15 minutes and do something on this project right now.” I can usually convince myself that a fifteen-minute block is doable. And it is amazing how many projects end up being completed in small segments. But the hardest part is deciding to quit putting off and start digging in… even if it’s just a little at a time.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.” That means that I may not say, “I can’t make up my mind,” anymore. With Jesus’ help I can decide… now. And if I ask Him to give me wisdom (a prayer He’s always happy to answer according to James 1), I can be confident that the choice I make will be a wise one. So then I don’t have to agonize and second guess my decision. Then I’m well on the way to becoming a great decision-maker!

I think I might try it out at the mall!