I mentioned yesterday that my husband and I frequently say to each other, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” We remind each other of this because:
1. We are the type of people who find a lot of things interesting and could have more “hobbies” than there is time in the day.
2. We are the type of people who are tempted to believe that if we can think it and have the ability to do it, we should be able to do it now.
3. We live in a culture that is obsessed with doing more and more – maximizing every opportunity.
4. There is pressure to be afraid that if you say no to “this” particular opportunity it might “ruin” your life.
5. There are always people in life who think they know what everyone else should or should not be doing and they are frequently vocal about it.
6. It can be a challenge in this day and age with so much stimuli all around us to truly determine what is of God and what is just background noise.
Constantly Reinvent Yourself
One of the best parts about the PBS series Frontier House was the interviews they did with the participants after they returned to normal life. I remember Kristen Brooks (the young woman who got married during the experience) saying something about the fact that we live at a time where you can constantly reinvent yourself. She could go back to school and get another degree, enter a new field, move to a new place, etc. She and her husband aren’t tied down by family or financial limitations. It gave me the impression that they were actually kind of overwhelmed by their regular life and its myriad choices. After living for months in a simple (but not easy) lifestyle, they realized how overwhelming the seemingly endless choices of modern life can be.
My husband and I have been purchasing the Little House on the Prairie DVDs as they have come out and we’ve enjoyed watching them. We’ve frequently discussed how simple their lives were during that time. It was not an easy life – there is a difference between simple and easy. Maybe basic is a better word than simple. Life was about surviving and trying to get a little ahead so their lives were not cluttered with excessive consumerism and endless possibilities to go, go, go and do, do, do. But how many of us have watched them listening to Pa play the fiddle or Ma mending while rocking in front of the fire, sighed, and wished for a little bit of that life?
I am a realistic person and I don’t want to romanticize the past. Despite my Little House in the Big Woods Fantasy, I have no interest in going back to a Little House lifestyle. I like my indoor plumbing, hot water heater, washer and dryer, AC, supermarket, wireless internet, and Sleep Number Bed. I also like raspberries in January, ready-made clothing, not having to work in the field beside my husband, and minimally invasive surgical procedures. I have a good life and I know it.
We Can, But Should We?
But I can’t help but wonder at times what the great people of the past would say about our world and the overabundance of choices we have today. What would Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther, Augustine, George Washington, Abigail Adams, and others like them say about the lives we live? Lives of being overextended financially, emotionally, physically, and relationally? Just because we can take out a home equity line of credit, doesn’t mean we should. Just because we can physically get our three children to three after school programs per day doesn’t mean we should. Just because we can afford to upgrade our car/home/TV/vacation/etc. doesn’t mean we should.
It takes a lot of discernment to live in this day and age and to make choices when life is so complicated. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to many other opportunities. Saying no to certain choices means possibly alienating yourself from people who thought you should have said yes. Saying no to something risks making you look “weird” to your neighbor/friend/family member/church member who doesn’t understand what motivates you to make the choices you are making.
On the other hand, saying yes to something that God has clearly put on your heart means finding out what exciting events will unfold from that willingness to be obedient to God’s leading. The key is in knowing the difference.