Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dying from Could.

If should is the master of obligation, could is the master of potential. I don't mean potential in a good way, like when a coach or a teacher looks you in the eye and promises great things if you just stay persistent and keep trying. The potential in could is a harassment about poor choices, guilt over where you are, and a cruel voice insisting you will never get farther in life than where you are now.

Ever heard could being condescending? I have. I do almost every day, but I'm trying desperately to fight back instead of just plugging my ears or tuning out.

So what is the deal with could? The tricky part I'm seeing is that could reaches into our past, present, and future with the biggest insecurities we attempt to conceal and makes us question not just our choices, but the deepest parts of who we are. Could makes us question our existence and purpose in a way should and would don't quite manage. What makes it worse is the vagueness in which could often operates.

I could have done something really amazing with my life.

I could be doing so many more important things right now.

I could become someone great, if only I could change.

These types of vague phrases can follow, haunt, and paralyze you unless you take them captive and shove them into the truth. I'm actually a terrible example of this, but it's something I'm working hard to conquer. When Paul talks about "taking every thought captive" in 2 Corinthians, he is not talking about simply thinking positive thoughts to make your life better, or to be a happier version of yourself. He is talking about the battle we are in, the war in the spiritual realm we find ourselves fighting by simply being aligned with Christ. He's talking about taking our thoughts and surrendering them to Christ, to be willing to listen to the truth instead of lies.

You see, this battle with could is not just a battle to control your thoughts. The struggle to get could to pipe down is actually the struggle against the sinful state of your flesh and of this world. When you claim allegiance to Christ and give up being a slave to sin, you keep the evil in this world from influencing your decisions and actions. Your flesh will keep you stuck, cause you to feel hopeless, and paralyze you by the shame of your past choices. But when you shut the doors on could, you shut the doors on Satan's voice in your head and the stronghold of sin in your thoughts.

The first thing to know about could is that it is not real. Literally, could doesn't exist. What you could have been is a myth - never happened, never will happen. What you could be doing right now is only true if you actually do it. Who you could be, or what you could accomplish, only exists if you take steps toward it and see it come to life. You have to get brave and be ready to totally throw could out the window.

Right now, the only place I'm going to address how to conquer could is in the present tense, to change could to can. Since you can't change the past, and you can't control the future, you have to completely wipe out and forget about could in the past and the future, and change could when you encounter it in the present. Still with me? Good :)

Like I said before, I am pretty terrible at this. If I don't have a plan for my day, I get overwhelmed really fast, especially if my kids are asking and begging to do something specific that wasn't already on my radar. I see all the ways my day could go and start trying to figure out how to fit all the necessary things in. I'm not sure why, but some days the list seems so long and the kids seem so uncooperative, that instead of jumping in and making progress, I move like a slug and start to feel depressed. We can all guess what that results in. Lots of nothing, at least nothing good.

What I find works best, and what I usually forget to do, is to just get started. I have to stop thinking of what I could do, what could happen, or how the day could go, and simply choose something. On days where I have a huge amount of computer work or writing to accomplish, it doesn't do me any good to be thinking about what I could do to make it happen, or how I could arrange my desk to make things more accessible. It's no help at all to think about what I could accomplish if I paid a regular babysitter, or what I could post on Instagram to help with my social platform. I just have to start. I have to get going.

There are times for thinking about the best way to do things or to plan how to deal with your responsibilities, but at some point we all have to make a decision. Google indecision and you will find hundreds of quotes about how indecision really is a decision, and I see it wreak havoc in my life every week. When I don't make a decision about dinner, I end up spending more money, eating junk, or wasting food. When I don't make a decision about a volunteer opportunity, I miss out completely, and I often make myself look bad by not responding either way. You see how this works?

Time comes to pass no matter what we do, and our days fill up no matter what decisions we make. Even worse, when our days fill up with activities resulting from indecision, we then have to struggle with the regret of not having done what we actually wanted to do. If we aren't careful and intentional, we end up with days or weeks heaping with regret, a bundle full of coulds, and a to-do list that will put you into the fetal position, guaranteed.

So how can we stop saying could? As you look at your options for what you could do today, or what you could be doing right now, or even what you could plan to do next week, try to minimize the importance of your choices. I am overly fearful about the impact one decision will have on my day, or even my life, but we have to recognize God's control over all these things. In our culture, and especially in mom-circles, we emphasize how our little actions and small decisions can make a large impact, but we don't always notice how this can paralyze us when making a bunch of these seemingly small decisions throughout our day.

You have to remember, God controls the outcome of your decisions, not you.

Sometimes you make a decision to go to the store with all the kids in the morning, then you are so exhausted later and struggle to accomplish anything. It feels like you made the wrong choice. Or what if you put off grocery shopping, then your husband doesn't get home until after dinner, forcing you to take the kids out shopping later in the evening? That's not good either. You look at what could happen and are fearful of a lousy outcome. But the truth is, lousy outcomes can happen regardless of how good your decision is. Don't let this haunt you, instead use it to remember who is actually in control. What we see as a lousy outcome, or a day filled with struggle, is often a sharpening type of day, where we can see God working in us if only we can step back and calm our minds for just a little bit.

You can't mess up God's plans. If he wants you to be tired in the afternoon, there is probably something you can gain from it. If he wants you to be on-task at home during the morning and then you have to succumb to a 2nd-rate dinner, there must be some goodness to be found there. He already knows, He already has a plan figured out, and His love isn't confined to good decisions only.

Remember, there is no could. I mean, there kind of is, but you really can just throw it out the window. You will find greater peace in your struggle with could and all of your decisions when you hold them a little more lightly. Look at your options objectively, choose one, then trust God with the outcome. It feels too simple, a little trite even, but sometimes we need to shut down our brain and just get to living. Don't follow outcomes to their end, or assume one choice will always determine a specific outcome, but make your decisions knowing God will have His outcome, no matter how badly you mess it up. His plans are often different from ours, but they are always best.

If you want to read more about making decisions, I highly recommend the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. It's a fabulous, Christ-centered, empowering book. And just so you know, this is an affiliate link, just like all the books I post about :)

Thanks for taking the time to hear a few of my thoughts on could. I'll be back in a week or two with some ideas on would, and hopefully, you will be empowered to take some control over your mind, live more fully in God's plans, and be more at peace with your decisions.

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