Options…

So I’ve been thinking about options here recently. People love options. As the years tick by, it seems like we have more and more.

From the days of Henry Ford who famously said that you could get your Model T in any color, as long as it is black, we have now gotten to so many options, I don’t think I can remember all of the SUV’s that his namesake company offered last year. It’s not just with cars. My old college, Southern Methodist University offers 123 undergraduate degrees and 127 graduate degrees… AND, if that wasn’t enough, they, like most schools offer an interdisciplinary studies degree in case you can’t find what you need in that set. There’s an oriental food place not too far from my work that has so many dishes on the menu, you simply order by number (I recommend the 523). How many channels are there on TV?

Why do we love options? I think a big part of it is options give us a sense of self-control and freedom. We feel like we have a say in what happens in our life. Options represent possibilities, and we never want to put a limit on the possibilities we have.

I would like to humbly suggest to the internet at large that some options are destroying us!

When I look back on my life, some of the most amazing things I did were because I didn’t have certain options.

When I graduated from high school, my parents made a deal with me. “You can live here and we will cover room and board, but that’s all the help we can give you with college.” Praise God I didn’t know about things like college loans! I honest-to-goodness didn’t know I could borrow money to pay for college. If I did, my story may have looked a lot different. I thought my only option was to figure out how to pay for school as I went, or not go to school. Hundreds of scholarship applications, 4 or 5 part-time jobs, and 1 full-time job later, I got three degrees without owing a dime for them (praise be to God, not me).

While I’m on the subject of college, after 13 years, the thought of quitting rolls through your head quite a few times too… but I didn’t. In some sense I couldn’t. Quitting was admitting I couldn’t do it, and I was way too proud/stubborn to admit that. Unfortunately the line is so cliche that it has lost some of it’s punch, but “failure was not an option.”

From those experiences, I can tell you that an interesting thing happens when you decide something is not an option – you close your mind to it when thinking through solutions. Allow me to illustrate.

Most of us would not consider walking outside without clothes. That’s simply not an option. If we didn’t have clean clothes we would reach for dirty clothes. If we were out of those, we may use a towel or something else to cover up. If that didn’t work, we may consider to stay inside. We may make something out of a plastic bag or a blanket, but allowing our bare naked body to be exposed to the outside world would simply not be an option. We won’t entertain it, even if it was a last resort.

Beth and I have talked about some of the options we will be taking off the table, for the good of ourselves and our family.

1. Divorce is not an option. We have taught our youth students at church now for approximately 6 years. After hearing a number of them pour their souls out before Beth and I, I can tell you that divorce is at the root of about 90% of the problems we see with teenage kids. We told God and about 200 people that the only thing that would break us apart is death, and we’re both working hard to make that so. I understand that there are cases where divorce is unavoidable, but far to often it is an “option” entertained by those that expect a marriage to work without any effort on their part. Yes, marriage takes work!

2. Debt is not an option. Beth and I have had our fair share of poor financial decisions in the past, and we have spent years paying for them (literally). We are cleaning up the last of our adoption debt now, but we will never have a credit card as long as we live. Also, we will never have another car payment. I’m sick of the debt that society tells me I can’t avoid. I can have a car without a payment. I can live a perfectly happy life without a credit card. When I was a kid, I would empty out my piggy bank when my mom went to Walmart. If I didn’t have enough money, I didn’t buy it. Yet, we scratch our heads and wonder why kids seem to be so carefree and stress-free while we are shackled to the credit cards that afford us “freedom” to get what we want.

3. Accepting entitlements and other government assistance is not an option. As the man of my family, I will work until I am without breath before I ever let my family be a burden to anyone else… and should my last breath come sooner rather than later, I’ve got life insurance to take care of them after I’m gone. It’s out of a good heart that our government offers help to people that need it, but I believe a great majority of people (many I know) who don’t desperately need it realize that its easier to go with that “option” than working 60 to 80 hours a week in a crappy job to make ends meet, so they reach for the low hanging fruit.

3. Lack of commitment is not an option. When my Beagle snapped at me and sliced my finger, I had a number of friends tell me that I should just get rid of that dog. We got similar comments about out Boxer over problems with her. I know dogs aren’t the same as kids, but when we make a commitment to take care of something, we do it. Yes, getting our dogs to straighten up and behave correctly took a lot of concessions on our part, but we’ve seen our wayward dogs make great strides and give us a lot of joy in the process. We’ve committed to our kids at home and our youth at church. I believe investing in people, not things, is the best thing you can do with your time. It’s hard and takes lots of time and energy, but I think a little more “I love you, even when it’s hard” would do the world a lot of good.

4. Skipping church is not an option. Can I confess, Sunday is one of the busiest days for me. What is this “day of rest” business? We leave for church around 8:30 am, get home around 12:30 pm and do it all over again that night. With the logistics of moving a family of 7, it can be exhausting. But, I want to communicate to my kids that God is important. I want them to understand that He is important when it is convenient AND when it is hard. We don’t sleep in. We don’t skip and blame it on a hard week. We don’t do other things… we go. Which brings me to my next one…

5. Quitting is not an option. If we say we are going to do something, we follow through. Sometimes, when that “something better” comes along after we have said we would do something, it’s real easy to try and get out of it or just not show up. Sometimes we will justify it with “I just don’t feel like it” or “It’s not a big deal” when the time comes. We live in a flaky generation. Dependability is a quality that is vanishing from our culture simply because all of our obligations are subject to the “option” of changing our mind, regardless of the impact it might have on others.

Options give us flexibility and freedom. They give us a way out when things get hard, but consider this: Climbing down off that cross was not an option for Jesus when He rescued me. Maybe I can deal with the discomfort of removing a few options for the betterment of myself and those around me too.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty