It’s cold on the Carolina shore right now. The tourists are gone, the beaches are empty, and the surf is up. Only a few locals are willing to brave the brisk Atlantic air to surf or stroll along the beach. It’s the perfect time of year to find beautiful seashells, and my kids love to search for them. The other day our family decided to bundle up and hunt for sand dollars; it’s hard to find one that’s unbroken. The process can be a bit overwhelming, too. And because there are so many shells along the beach to choose from, it can take forever to cover a relatively small area if you are searching hard. My 4-year old son kept picking up ordinary, flat, shells; then he would ask, “Is this a sand dollar?”
“Nope, it’s just a regular, old, shell.” I would respond. And then the process would repeat itself. Each time he asked, I tried my best to patiently explain how to identify a sand dollar. But, no matter how many times I offered advice in the art of finding these unique shells, he still chose to do it his own way; “In one ear and out the other” as my mom would say. It’s funny how we ask others for advice, but in the end, we rarely take it.
The experience of searching for seashells with my son got me thinking about Carolina Liar’s new song, “Show Me What I’m Looking For”. I really like the second verse and the chorus:
VERSE 2: Don’t let go, I’ve wanted this far too long, Mistakes become regrets, I’ve learned to love abuse, Please show me what I’m looking for
CHORUS: Save me, I’m lost, Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for you, I’ll pay any cost, Save me from being confused, Show me what I’m looking for, Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord
Making good decisions and seeking advice from others go hand-in-hand. I believe there are times when you should trust your gut, listen to that inner-voice (hopefully it’s God and not gas), and act upon your own instinct. But more often than not, you should listen to the wisdom of those who have your best interest at heart, and those who can see things from a much broader perspective due to their life experience and objectivity.
Usually, when I have an important decision to make, I seek the advice of people I trust and believe to be wise; you probably do the same thing. To quote Carolina Liar, we say, “Show me what I’m looking for.” However, it’s ironic that we often ignore the advice we’re given. And before you know it, just like in the song, “mistakes become regrets.” We then find ourselves going back to the very same people who gave us the advice that we should have taken, but didn’t. The conversation usually goes something like this: “I know I should’ve done what you told me to do, but I didn’t. And now I’m dealing with the consequences and I need advice on how to get out of this mess…Please show me what I’m looking for, again.” It’s humorous to think just how stupid we can be.
If you’re like me, you’ve made some dumb decisions in life. You’ve made choices that in retrospect were unwise: money spent, time wasted, hurtful words spoken, missed opportunities, and the like. Because of this, you would give almost anything for a “do-over.” But life is not a game of golf. You can’t rewind the tape. Rarely do you get second chances. So, how do you make better decisions? How do you get to the point where you can trust yourself to have good instincts? The answer is simple: it’s a process that happens one small step at a time. Consistently making good smaller decisions leads to making good bigger decisions. In other words, being faithful in the little things leads to being faithful in the big things.
Most of us make decisions based solely on our current reality, we don’t see past the moment. We fail to look at the bigger picture of what’s at stake. We treat our life a bit like a movie; we only think about the current scene. We never play the movie out in its entirety. We fail to realize that each scene affects the end of the movie; therefore, the script of our life is altered and never winds up quite like we imagined it.
I love Andy Stanley’s book, “The Best Question Ever.” Stanley contends that the best question ever is, “What’s the wisest thing to do?” He provides a three-question grid to run each decision through:
- Based on my past experiences, is it the wise thing to do?
- Based on my current reality, is it the wise thing to do?
- Based on my future hopes and dreams, is it the wise thing to do?
These questions are extremely practical, but they mean nothing if we fail to answer them honestly. They mean nothing if we fail to look at the bigger picture of what’s at stake. Each time you and I make a decision, regardless of how large or small, our future, our family’s future, and our legacy hang in the balance.
The Apostle Paul gave great instruction in Ephesians 5:15, “Be very careful then how you live, not as unwise, but as wise; making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Each decision we make, bad or good, affords to us a portion of wisdom. However, based on the type of decisions we make, we inevitably develop patterns. Bad decisions lead to more bad decisions, and result in a life of regret. In the same way, good decisions lead to better decisions, which ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.
How about you? Do you make wise decisions? Do you play the movie forward, or just focus on the current scene you’re in? When someone gives you wise counsel, and you know deep in your gut that you should follow his or her advice, do you? Or, do you expect others to bail you out each time you make an unwise choice?
Save me, I’m lost, Oh lord, I’ve been waiting for you, I’ll pay any cost, Save me from being confused, Show me what I’m looking for, Show me what I’m looking for…oh lord
If you have a pattern of making bad decisions, it’s time to break the cycle; one good decision at a time. Slow down, don’t be impulsive. Seek wisdom from people you trust; people who will speak the truth in love. After all, making wise choices leads to an overall better, more fulfilling, and healthier life. Proverbs 28:26, “He who trust in his own heart is a fool. But he who walks wisely will be delivered.”