Keeping you options open (Renovation of the Heart Chapter 8)

I once heard someone say they didn’t want to marry their current romantic interest because they were afraid that someone better was going to come along. They would realize they had made a mistake, but it would be too late.
We hate to make one choice and stick to it. We want to keep our options open. So, we try not to commit to any one thing because we want to have as many choices as possible for as long as possible. We train our young people to be like this, as Dan Ariely said: “We keep our children in every activity we can imagine – just in case one sparks their interest in gymnastics, piano, French, organic gardening, or tae kon do.”
The problem of keeping our options open is one that ultimately hurts any attempt at walking in the transformation Christ has promised us. So, in the 8th chapter of Willard’s Renovation of the Heart, Willard takes aim at the need to set our Will right.
Will is the place in the inner life where we make choices. And when we get down to it, there are two basic kinds of Will:
1. There is the Will that is “a place of chaotic duplicity and confusion…fragmentation and multiplicity. It wills many things that cannot be reconciled with each other.” This is the person who chases after many competing things because their thoughts and feelings are a mess of conflicting desires.
And though they might wish to organize their life so that it can follow through on one thing, it ultimately is not possible because there is nothing on the inside that can unify their inner life. The result, Willard says is that even though we might want good, we are unable to achieve the good we desire: “The drive toward good, which is naturally implanted in the human will by its Creator, is splintered, corrupted, and eventually turned against itself as a result of practical self-deification…”
2. In contrast to the Will that cannot ever be organized, there is a kind of Will that transforms us to be what we are called to be. This is the Will that has “single-minded and joyous devotion to God and His will, to what God wants for us – and to service to Him and to others because of Him.”
This is the Will that is transformed by God. We commit to a single-minded focus because God pulls us in the right direction and keeps resetting our focus on Him. As Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” And the Psalmist said, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.”
So, a Will that leads us to change is set on Christ and His ways. We do not have to keep doors open, hoping that more options will somehow result in a better life. Perhaps the key to life is not keeping so many options open, but narrowing the options and pursuing the best road. As II Timothy 2:4 says, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”
The Will must fight to free itself of the entanglements that prevent us from living according to God’s will. And we cannot stop at wishing to be free. We must take concrete steps in the direction of God’s will. We must discipline ourselves to become the people who can will one thing.
As Ariely concludes in his book Predictably Irrational, “What we need to do is to consciously start closing some of our doors…We ought to shut them because they draw energy and commitment away from the doors [or door] that should be left open…”


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