The one rule about church we had growing up was that we had to go on Sundays. Not that we had to pay attention or like it. We didn’t have to memorize or make public commitments. There was no witnessing or professing our faith.
I never saw this as a hurdle or an unreasonable expectation. In fact, there were times in which I wanted more direction. I wanted to be told to come to church. Or to believe specific things.
Coming to church on Sundays was not my choice. But everything else–everything else–was.
Later on, when I was interested in philosophy and playing with my ideas about nature, I had a conversation with my Dad about choices and free will.
We were driving, just the two of us, on a freeway, going 70 miles per hour. And I turned to him and said,
“What keeps me from opening this door right now?”
Of course, he was naturally confused by the question. I mean, it was random and ridiculous. His response was rightly on target.
“You don’t want to fall out.”
Which was totally true. But I wasn’t thinking about the choice itself. I was thinking about the very idea that we can even notice a choice is often not in the equation.
“But we don’t think about opening the door. We aren’t constantly making a choice to not open the door. We are entirely unconscious of the decisions we make.”
My Dad steered the conversation to the usual territory of the church. Free will vs. predestination.
It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with him. I totally did. It’s not like I was turning into a little Calvinist on him. I was just playing with the idea. Messing about.
And realizing that most of the way we argue these things in our theology are imperfect. Naive. And far too dogmatic.
Choosing to Choose
Many of us have a dogmatic view about our choices. About the things we believe or don’t believe. How we came to understand and see the world the way we do.
And many of us bristle at the idea of even having a choice, or having none at all.
I remember a classmate in seminary walking out and leaving a class whenever predestination was questioned. The very thought of free will, or choosing to better understand our faith and providence in the world was apparently dangerous to him! Several of us would notice how he exercised his choice. To not choose, I guess.
When we choose to choose, we aren’t only making a single choice. We are deciding to become more aware; to open ourselves to more choices.
A recently heard that we make several thousand choices each day. And our brains have enough energy to take 200-300 of them seriously.
Yes. We think hard and deliberately to about 10% of our daily choices. So think of all the choices we ignore.
And when we devote attention to different choices? Our brains get tired and stop committing to other ones.
So when we choose to become aware that some choices need to be taken more seriously, what becomes less important? What can we let go of and hand over to the autopilot?
How can we not choose to devote our energy to what’s most important?