Our days pass by in a flurry of activity. We make decisions every minute of every hour of every day. Many of those decisions fail – the meeting we rearranged our schedule for is cancelled at the last minute, the decision falls under the law of unintended consequences and produces the opposite result we intended, the decision flies away into the ether of our complex world and we never know what it accomplished, and so on.
The daily repetition of these failed decisions can produce “decision cynicism”.
We can begin to believe that we are trapped in a world where it doesn’t matter what we decide, for the world will have its way and we are simply bubbles floating on its inexorable stream.
I am a confirmed genealogist. The study of my family’s history fills me with inexpressible joy and delight. Few, perhaps, know the thrill of walking through row after row of shelves stuffed with state and county records and knowing that somewhere in this massive trove of information lies buried treasures, keys that will unlock knowledge of one’s past never known before.
My genealogical research, however, has done more for me than just satisfying this esoteric itch. It impresses on the researcher over and over again the importance of human decisions, and how they can utterly revolutionize the life of a person and the future destiny of his descendants.
What if that small time London Virginia merchant and moderate Puritan named William Reynolds had decided not to settle in Virginia around 1636? It certainly was not a promising prospect to make a new life in the new colony. In fact, his decision seems to have condemned future generations of his offspring to over a century of economic hardship and sudden disasters, along with most of these early Virginians. He could have easily decided to stay home. His decision to relocate, however, changed the destiny of our family forever – we have had the blessing of being Americans ever since.
What if a small farmer in West Virginia had not decided to dedicate his life to Christ in the 1870s? John Paul Reynolds, my great-great-grandfather, by this decision, unleashed wave after wave of blessing into our family, resulting in generations of clergymen, Christian teachers, and dedicated followers of God.
What if my grandfather, Earl Combs, had not decided to give up his youthful wild ways, follow Christ with all his heart, settle down with a wonderful Christian woman, and raise a family? My beautiful and God-honoring mother (not to mention the rest of our family) wouldn’t exist.
C. S. Lewis reflected once on the mystery of prayer:
Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost sort of a divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, ‘to wield our little tridents.’ Is this amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something — indeed, makes gods — out of nothing.*
What Lewis writes about prayer is also true about our decisions. They are not useless -- indeed, they are the very means by which God chooses to act in the world on many occasions. God has chosen us to be His children. So decide – and become like God.
*(“The Efficacy of Prayer”, in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays)