Monday, February 11, 2019

You Are What You Decide

Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? With obesity now at what some experts term epidemic proportions, we see many walking, talking examples of that. What about, “You are what you read”? What we choose to put into our minds, as with what we put into our bodies, can make a huge difference in how we view the world around us. I’d suggest another one: “You are what you decide.”

There are many aspects of this. I recall as a young adult how excited I was to receive my first credit card. I could buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it! Sadly, I failed to consider the downsides of my spending decisions – high interest rates and growing balances each month that I couldn’t pay off. As a consequence, I joined the hordes of people encumbered with credit card debt. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but deciding to acquire things I wanted but really couldn’t afford fit me for the biblical warning, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Thankfully, years later I learned what the Bible teaches about money management. I and my wife (who inherited my debt when we married) received financial counseling based on those principles. We decided to begin the process of slowly getting rid of that debt, and over the years have saved thousands of dollars in interest that would have accrued.

Other decisions over the course of my life also have made an incredible difference in who I am today. I started college in Houston, Texas, where my English instructor encouraged me in the direction of professional writing. Following up on that, I transferred to (the) Ohio State University, where I majored in journalism. Upon graduation, my career in writing and editing was launched at a small newspaper in central Ohio. It wasn’t my dream job, but it turned out to be a critical career decision.

Looking at my vocational path after that, I’m not certain it was guided so much by my own decisions as it was decisions God made for me. As the passage I later adopted as my life verse instructs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him – and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). That has certainly proved true for me.

While at that first newspaper, I met a young woman with two children and we started dating. Within a year we decided to marry. Although we’ve endured our share of bumps along the way, we’ve enjoyed more than 44 years of marriage. She’s been every bit the “completer” or “helpmate” that God promised when He said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Without a doubt, the greatest, most profound decision I have ever made – or will make – in my life has been to receive Jesus Christ into my life as Savior and Lord. As it says in John 1:12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” After many years of passive, intellectual belief, making a decision based on faith to follow Jesus has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined or even hoped.

These are some of the radical, life-changing decisions I’ve made in my life, ones that have shaped who I have become. But every day we make smaller, yet very significant decisions that influence our attitudes as well as our actions. 

A friend of mine used to say, “You can’t stop birds from flying over your head – but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” We’re bombarded daily with negativity, when it’s the news – as my pastor recently called it, “Bad Morning America”; poisonous messages on social media; inconsiderate texts and emails; or just hostile people in the supermarket checkout line. Unexpected problems threaten to ruin our day.

We can decide to let these diverse messages manipulate our minds, making us just as miserable as many of the folks we encounter. Or we can decide instead to do as the apostle Paul exhorted. For instance, in Romans 12:2 he wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” One paraphrase puts it this way: “Don’t let the world shape you into its mold.”

Elsewhere the apostle instructed his followers, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Some of us are “glass half full” thinkers: others are more inclined toward “glass half empty.” But even the most positive thinker, if not careful, can become sucked into the darkening gloom that seeks to envelop us. 

Ultimately, we’re the deciders of what we let affect our thinking. As Proverbs 23:7 tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." The decision, big or small, is ours. And to large measure, what we will be is determined by what we decide.

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