Decisions

fork

Decisions, decisions, decisions…life is full of fun, interesting, difficult, painful, and exciting decisions.

In his book, All the Places to Go, John Ortberg cites a study that found that the average person makes about 70 conscious decisions per day. These make up the 25,550 mundane, important, and life sustaining decisions we make per year. For a person who lasts seventy years, those 1,788,500 decisions make up who they are as a person. As Albert Camus said, “Life is a sum of all your choices.”

This weekend, on a simple trail like the one above, it was illustrated for me how impactful a seemingly insignificant decision can be. Our family was walking along the Price Lake Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying a beautiful fall day. My 9 year old son was leading the way and we came to a fork in the trail. You couldn’t really see the end to either side, but there didn’t seem to be room for a true ‘fork’ so he said “you go that way and I’ll go this way daddy and we’ll meet up on the other side.” And that is what we did – we both walked maybe 20 yards and then the two trails came back together and we walked on. Maybe a half a mile later, we came to another fork and Jack again said, “let’s go both ways again and meet up.” Only this time the trails didn’t come back together. As soon as it went out of view, my trail veered off sharply, seemingly going somewhere else. As my son blissfully continued on the main path, it was clear to me that my path was not going to loop back around and reconnect. Because I’ve made roughly 792,149 more decisions in my life than my son, my experience told me that I’d better stop and turn around, return to the main trail, and catch up with my family before either I got lost or they got worried.

Our decisions in life are often the same. Some of them we think are going to be so impactful and we worry over them, pray over them, and over think them. Then we get a few steps into the decision and realize it brings us back to the path we were on and we move comfortably along. Other times, in a moment of comfort or on a whim, we make what seems to be an insignificant decision and move down a path that ends up taking us in a completely different direction. Sometimes we have the opportunity to backtrack to the main trail, but other times we end up just going a different direction and by the time we realize it, it has become our new path.

I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life, well over a million I’d surmise. Some of them have been good and beneficial and others have been painful and hard. But every one of them has made me who I am. As I continue forward on my life’s path, I think I’ll keep in mind that each decision, large and small, is impactful to who I am becoming. Being mindful of this won’t avoid hurt, pain, and sorrow, to be sure. Being mindful of my decisions will, however, make me more self-aware of what it is that makes me the person I am and the person I will become.

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Very Important Insignificant Speck

St Peter's Basilica

Last week, my wife and I were very blessed to have the opportunity to travel to London and Rome to celebrate my 40th birthday. As I reflect on the trip and all of the amazing things that we saw and experienced, it is difficult for me to sum up into a few words the most impactful parts of the trip. This morning, as I got back into my routine with a Monday morning run it finally started to become clearer in my mind. This trip taught me that I am a Very Important Insignificant Speck of life in this world.

There is perhaps no greater place to feel insignificant in this world than in Rome, Italy. As you stand in places like St. Peter’s Basilica Square (pictured above), The Sistine Chapel, The Pantheon, The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, or any of the thousands of amazing churches around the city it is humbling to remember that you are only ONE of hundreds of millions of people over thousands of years who have stood in those places. Think about that…The Pantheon was completed in 127 AD – less than one hundred years after the death of Christ – as a temple to the Roman gods of the stars and sun. There have been people worshipping in that building daily for almost 2,000 years. Talk about making a guy feel small!

Then we visited the Sistine Chapel. Built a mere 700 years ago, this building has one of the largest single expanse vaulted ceilings ever constructed. This slight detail added incredible complexity to the job of Michelangelo when he was commissioned in 1508 to paint the ceiling. Often forgotten in this masterpiece is the fact that Michelangelo had to first engineer a scaffolding that would get him up to the ceiling for the painting while at the same time allowing the chapel to continue to be used for services. As Jessi and I stood in the middle of this room with thousands of other people, and looked up at this view, my personal speck started to feel even smaller.

sistine

And then we came home. In over 9 years of being parents, we’ve never been away from our children for more than 3 consecutive days. Our week together was amazing, re-affirming of our relationship, and a shared experience we’ll never forget. It was great to spend so much concentrated time together. We talked a lot about our kids while we were away, like any parents would do. Then, when we walked in the door last night, we were met by this (and hugs and kisses):

welcomehome

So this morning, as I dropped the kids off at the bus stop and then ran one of my usual routes as a pretty insignificant speck after our trip to Europe, I suddenly started to feel pretty important. I’m important as a emotional and physical partner to my wife. I’m important to the growth, protection, support, and development of my two kids. It is important for me to be a good son, brother, and friend to those I care about the most. My health is important so that I can physically and emotionally care for my family and loved ones. My work is important to sustain me emotionally, my family financially, and my clients and colleagues professionally. And it is important to play and have fun and to share those moments with the most important people in my life.

My daughter’s welcome home picture reminded me of all of these reasons that I am important because despite all of the amazing things I saw over the past week, that simple sign meant the most. Her innocent and unconditional love came through in an act of caring and kindness that made us feel like the most important people in the world, and the excitement of her and her brother to hear all about our trip was the highlight of the trip by far.

The reality is that we are all pretty small and insignificant specks of human life in the grand scheme of global history. While we often act like we’re at the center of the universe, our daily lives and actions really don’t have a lot of impact on very many people. That doesn’t matter though, because to the people we do impact, we’re all very important. And it is to those people that we should give our time, attention, love, caring, energy, and concern. Every speck counts.