I woke up this past weekend to find that my can of shaving cream had somehow sprung a leak. I immediately assigned blame (in my head) to my eldest son. With three kids, he periodically has to shower in my bathroom, and I thought that since he’s within a year or three of shaving himself, he wanted to see what the shaving cream was like. So, I dragged my son from a deep sleep into the realm of my accusation—I wasn’t angry, I actually thought the whole thing was kind of funny. He denied knowing anything about the shaving cream incident, but I still had my suspicions. My wife told me I was being foolish and that I had interrupted the boy’s sleep for nothing. I thought little of it until the next morning. I entered the bathroom while it was still pretty dark. I saw what I took to be a washcloth lying in my sink and thought, “He tried to clean up that shaving cream mess and left a washcloth.” When I put my hand on the washcloth, it turned out to be part of a larger waterfall of shaving cream. Turns out, the can is defective and my son had nothing to do with it.
This is but a minor example of a principle that I’ve been dealing more and more with in life—you have to wait until all the information is in before making the best possible decision. I’ve quoted this Proverb here before, but it’s worth repeating: The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17). But I also thought about what Jesus said when He was invited to have dinner with a Pharisee and noted how everyone jockeyed for position at the table (Luke 14:7-11). The basic gist of His words is that we should not seek places of honor, but rather let someone else exalt you to a better seat. I think these two things go together—the idea of not making decisions based on first assumptions as well as how to evaluate your own standing (with others or with God).
When we consider our own place in the world and what is it we need with regard to our relationship with God, we should only do so at great length. It does us no good to hastily decide God thinks very little (or very much) of us. It does us no good to make a quick assessment of our own hearts and where we need spiritual growth. Think of it this way: when someone first commits their life to following God, they tend to make big decisions and eliminate some behaviors. Then, as they progress down that road, the decisions and evaluations get smaller—they start to focus on intentions of the heart and the traits and habits that produce godliness. This requires a greater amount of reflection than the decisions made at the beginning. It’s pretty easy to start a journey by going one direction instead of another—but as you near your goal, the directions have to get more specific.
It’s those specific directions that will often require the most reflection. That being said, there is a danger of what’s called “analysis paralysis,” where we spend so much time reflecting on causes and solutions to our own internal world that we never do anything. Even someone who has been on a journey with God for decades will be called upon to decide and act quickly. That’s why patience is so important in the other areas—we are looking to build wisdom, not just information. It’s that wisdom developed by patience that allows the quick decisions not to result in catastrophic results. Take time to train in wisdom—get more information, but couple it with reflection.