Monday Morning Devotion-March 20, 2023
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book."
*reprint from July 5, 2021
The writer! That's you! You are writing a story. You may never have picked up a pen and paper or placed your fingers on a keyboard with the intention of writing a story. But, you are writing a story---your story---daily.
In his book: Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, GA, has five major questions to ask yourself before you make a decision that can affect your life either way, negatively or positively.
The second of these questions, on which we will spend some time in today's devotion, is the one he terms: "The Legacy Question." That question is: "What Story Do I Want to Tell?
Stanley says that every decision you make becomes a permanent part of your story---the story of your life.
So, in thinking about your life's story what is it that you want to tell? And what story do you want told about you?
Stanley makes this point: "The good news is, you get to decide. But you decide one decision at a time, because you write the story of your life one decision at a time. "
Stanley has an excellent role model to follow in crafting his own life story. His Dad, Charles Stanley, who is 88+ years old, is pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Atlanta having retired after serving as senior pastor for 51 years.
Charles Stanley's father died when he was nine months old. So, everything he learned about being a Dad was without having a father for a role model. With the benefit of a great deal of hindsight Andy now realizes: "What I didn't grasp as a child but is abundantly clear to me now is that my father's story is simply a series of outcomes connected to a series of decisions. In many cases decisions made in response to other people's decisions. He was writing the story of his life one decision at a time. He was writing chapters in the story of my life, one decision at a time. And while there are no perfect stories, he certainly wrote a good one. One worth telling. One worth retelling."
So, what about the story playing out in your life? Have you thought about the decisions you are making in light of their long-term effect on your life story? Chances are that you haven't thought about any of them in that way. Why is that?
Stanley says: "The primary reason we don't think in terms of story when making decisions is that story is later. Decisions are now. We think about later, later. As in later when it's too late to do anything about it. We don't think in terms of story because we're distracted by the pressure and emotions we feel in the moment."
He continues: "Emotion is like a fog. It causes us to lose sight of the broader context. Namely our stories."
Sometimes when we are under pressure it's like we are trying to see what's ahead through a thick fog. Driving in a dense fog slows us down. We may be running late and so we want to hurry up, but it is hard to see what's ahead making it difficult to increase our speed. So, we turn on the high-beam lights on the car to try and see farther. Wrong move! High beams can actually worsen visibility because they reflect off of the fog.
When making decisions under pressure it is natural to want to move past the problem as soon as possible. But it's like that fog. We can't hurry until we can see more clearly. Our emotions come into play complicating the decision-making process and focus our attention on the immediate rather than the ultimate. Stanley points out that we are "left thinking in terms of our options and choices but not our stories. Immediate outcomes, not ultimate outcomes."
Some of our worst decisions are made because of the emotional appeal which is not always the rational decision. In sales (and I'm not criticizing salespeople, been there done that myself for many years) but the salesperson wants the customer to make a decision while they are in the store, while the emotions favor purchasing the product. They know that once a customer walks out without making a decision the emotional appeal lessens and so does the opportunity to make the sale.
Psychologists call this "cognitive bias." It is where our appetites or preferences are engaged emotionally in the decision-making process.
In the decision-making process when this emotional appeal is taking over it's time to press pause not play. It should trigger a red flag not a green light. Not because it might not ultimately be the right decision. But the strong emotional appeal clouds our judgement. It's the time to take some time to pause, maybe call a friend, but consider your story.
Every decision we make is important. Granted some may have greater impact on our lives than others and require more time and thought before deciding. But each decision made becomes a part of your story.
So, consider the fact that you are a writer. The story you are writing is an important one. It is your life story.
Prayer: Lord, help us to remember to commit each decision to you for your wise counsel as we write another part of our life story each day. Amen!