Thursday, September 3, 2015

Choose the harder way

Esther and I met in the rain. She found me under a tree.

Hans and I were newly married, and he was the new minister at our new church. He was playing ultimate frisbee with everyone else, and I did what I always did when I felt insecure — I hid behind a book.

Esther, seventeen at the time, came over in her pale blue t-shirt, with a smile that unveiled her perfect teeth. She said, "Hi, I'm Esther. Which high school do you go to?" I didn't look like the pastor's wife, apparently.

She saved me from sulking that day.

I came across a strange advice from Elisabeth Elliot:
Choose the harder of the two ways. If you have eliminated all other possibilities and there still seem to be two which might please God, choose the more difficult one. "The way is hard, that leads to life," Jesus said, so it is likely that he is asking us to will against our will (A Slow and Certain Light, 115).
She placed this counsel at the very, very end of her book on knowing the will of God. After all is said and done — after we prayed, searched the Scripture, evaluated the motives of our hearts, counted the cost, listened to the counsel of those wiser than ourselves — if both choices seems to be equally good and right, choose the harder way.

But what if the harder way is not God's will? He commands us not to be afraid. God is with us and he is near those whose hearts are bent on knowing and doing his will. Just as he prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and David from building the temple, he will help us know if this is not the right way. Trust him.

The Lord is always looking at the hearts of his servants. Are we willing to take up staggering tasks for his name's sake? Are we willing to sacrifice, to die to ourselves? The Lord was please with Abraham and David because they were bent on doing hard things—for him, "You did well that it was in your heart" (I Kings 8:18).

"Choose the harder way" has been most helpful in my ordinary, daily deaths to self. Should I wash the dishes or check Facebook? Should I wake up when my alarm rings or sleep for another "five minutes"? After the service on Sunday, do I hang out with my friends or introduce myself to the new person? When provoked, do I speak my mind or sulk or pray for the one provoking me?

Clearly, I am not applying Ms. Elliot's advice quite right. I think she meant it for bigger decisions, when the all the options seem right and faithful. My daily choices are neither big nor are they equally "pleasing to God." The better thing to do is most of the time painfully obvious. The question is whether I would do it.

But—because I am prone to wander, "choose the harder way" pulls me away from my tendency to take the easy route. Ms. Elliot reminds me whom I am following, and why I am doing the things I am doing. I am to follow the pierced feet of my Lord. He chose the steep and the narrow, all the way to Golgotha.

Esther could have just focused on playing frisbee. And our lives would have gone on. And I would have kept pretending like I was reading my book. But the Lord was, and is, gracious. Esther chose to stop playing, and she came over to the lonely person under the tree, in the rain.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.


estherogen said...

What GRADE are you in?

Not even what "year" ... Hahah

Unknown said...

I wish you wrote this blog a bit earlier on as I was facing some difficult decisions these past few weeks, but still resonated with me deeply. Following Christ never meant peace or "the easy way" your whole life, and I think as Christians we tend to forget that very, very easily, especially when God calls us to moments of difficult decisions. In amidst of choosing to follow Him painfully though, we must remind ourselves that He is good. Faithful. In the end, when He finally reveals to me why I had the choice and why He needed me to follow that choice to the end, it always feels so, so rewarding.
Thank you for always sharing the wisdom. I hope we can grab a meal together sometime again with the boys! I miss them dearly (:

estherogen said...

Help me choose the better way
Help me bring the insecure ones hiding behind their book in!