One of the greatest weaknesses of the post-modern psyche is our insistence in having it all and therefore rarely ever fully committing to/benefitting from anything. The idiom “have it both ways” refers to “trying to have the advantages from two opposing ways.”
In his book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz explains why we have trouble committing, why we love to keep our options open. He observes that as a culture we demand choice. We demand options. We imagine more options mean more freedom. And most people think that limitless freedom must be a good option. The irony, Schwartz writes, is that this apparently limitless choice doesn’t actually make us happy. The number of choices available to us becomes overwhelming, and actually makes it difficult for us to ever have the joy of fully committing to anything or anyone. Even when we do commit, we often feel dissatisfied with the choice we’ve made. (summarized in this external post)
Elijah the prophet called the people of his day to choose a way, “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word” (1 Ki. 18:21). The word “halt,” unlike how many take it, carries with it the idea of “to limp, to be lame.” Would you allow me to say that our Christianity today is “really lame” because we refuse to make up our minds and go forward in a sacred, SINGULAR direction.
Here are some areas where we are trying to have it both ways, and they will not age well:
- We cannot keep talking about what we would do if in a different set of “more ideal” circumstances and then hope these hypotheticals alone will generate a present, pleasing identity before the Lord!
- We cannot make impulsive decisions with our money on a regular basis and then simply will into existence a life of debt-free financial independence and generosity.
- We cannot keep the next generation, with all their inconveniences and immaturities at an arms length, and then still produce a legacy of influence that outlives us/makes a difference in the long haul!
- We cannot allow our lethargic minds/flesh to convince us that diet and exercise “are no big deal” and then count on a healthy body that possesses its God-intended levels of vitality and longevity!
- We cannot opt out of the incarnate responsibilities to the church (attendance, service, giving, etc.) and then expect it to regularly serve our very real, actual needs and wants!
- We cannot play it safe by avoiding any risks possible and then count on living a life of significance that makes a dent in the world and eternity!
- We cannot guard our autonomy while rejecting vulnerability/mutual submission in our marriage and still experience the soul-level intimacy with another human being that borders on the divine as originally intended by our Creator.
- We cannot operate with a “wing it” mindset about our day to day priorities and expect for everything to pan out the way it does for those prudent souls who intentionally and sacrificially plan ahead!
- We cannot hover above the next generation trying to shield them from every threat and hurt, and then hope that they will grow up with deep-rooted resolve and resiliency to face an uncertain future!
- We cannot have a private life riddled with unchecked lust, bitterness, self-gratification and expect to publicly possess/increase our own moral authority and power…especially as we age!
- We cannot erratically throw our spare time and pocket change at the local church and still count on being an essential part of thriving gospel ministry that reaches lost souls across the street and around the world!
- We cannot perpetually live in the momentary glories or deep wounds of the past and expect to seize, while the brief windows open, the future that lies before us.
As Hortius Bonar so bluntly concludes, “If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part. Beware of halfhearted discipleship, of compromise with evil, of conformity to the world, of trying to serve two masters—to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once. It will not do. Halfhearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable.” In other words, we have to “choose our hard. ”
Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, offers what he calls the “Stockdale Paradox” to make the hard decisions necessary to move forward where we and who/what we lead are currently stuck in indecision or denial. It requires us to, “retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties; AND AT THE SAME TIME, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” Would you join me in abandoning the futile pursuit of trying to have the advantage of both ways and go all in the path of righteousness that shine brighter with every passing day? Heed the words of Solomon, “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard” (Pr 13:15). It is your choice, but you have to choose only one. Why? You are a finite being created by God who, despite your best efforts, can only be in one place and headed in one direction at a time.