Of late, Mike and I seem to be making big life decisions all over the place. The big decisions in life are easy to spot: Should I buy this house or that house; should I take this job or that one; should I start this business or not. But I also think that every single day of our lives we are making life choices, small ones, that add up to big ones.
The decision I make each day to either go for a bike ride or watch TV determines ultimately whether I am a biker or a coucher. The decision I make each day to either speak up when I feel wronged ultimately decides if I am a passive victim or an active fighter. Each day, we are controlling our life and ultimately deciding who we are. There are many things we cannot control. But there are perhaps even more that we can.
I find this idea comforting. It also helps me as I have to make choices. When deciding whether to open the ice cream store, Mike and I asked ourselves, who do we want to be? Do we want to be people that dare to start a small business? Do we want to be people who take the safe route? We decided the former, as ultimately it is who we really are as people.
This approach is freeing as it dismisses fear, which can guide so many decisions. If you ignore the fear and ask, "What do I want to see when I look back on my life in 20 years?", it is very clarifying.
I love those commercials of children saying things like, "When I grow up, I want to be in middle management" or "When I grow up, I want to be a yes man" because it's absurd in the voice of a child. But sometimes fear or misguided ambition can guide us to things we would have never wanted. Not that there is anything wrong with middle management. But there is something wrong with it if it's not who you are.
When talking to many of my Christian friends about life choices, I feel like we are speaking a different language. So many talk about "God's will," but our conceptions are so different about what this is, that our words are like two planes passing in the sky.
Sometimes I believe God does have specific "callings" on our lives. But other times, I believe he has equipped us with a brain and opportunities and asks us to choose which is best, using the guiding principles in the Bible. This is why for Mike opening an ice cream store wasn't a matter of believing he had a mystical calling to sell frozen milk and sugar. Rather, he had a guiding biblical principal to provide for his family; he knows that it is God's will for him to try to make money and provide in the best way he can. We don't need to complicate it any more than that.
Living in a time and country where there are so many choices, it makes this kind of deliberating seem righteous. But picture a father in Tanzania. He doesn't have a job. His baby is hungry and crying. He's sitting outside his mud home saying, "Hmm Haw, I'm not really sure if it's God's will for me to sell milk. I haven't heard God's voice on this." I would say, "Get off yo' hiney and go make some money." God's will in an absolute situation like this is clear: Provide for your family. Why do we muddle it so in the "developed" world?
Not believing that there's only one right path or will to each life choice is empowering. I'm not worried that my life is going to melt into degeneracy because I heard "God's voice" wrong or read the signs wrong. We could either fail or succeed at this business, but I don't think either will be an indication that we turned toward or away from God's will.
Robbed of the mystical will card, one has to use good sense to make decisions. And one of the most valuable ways for me is to say, "Who do I want to be?" I made the dubious choice to move to Amsterdam, but looking back, I see that it utterly reflects who I am and who I want to be. I made the dubious choice to study English rather than something "practical" like business, but looking back, this has clearly allowed me to be who I am rather than a fakey business pretender that everyone would hate because she was miserable.
I don't believe in some wishy-washy "follow your heart" philosophy of life. But I do believe that we are each unique creatures that thrive when acting as we were created to act and not annoying everyone else by being miserable trying to be someone or something else. With this business beginning, I'm having to make my own decisions about where I am going - where do I want to put my energy? I thank God that he has put me in a situation where I have choice and can be who he best made me to be.
Forgive me for this muddle of a post of colliding ideas. Just thinking out loud.