One of my friends from our nine-member graduating class calls once a year. He’s one of the most motivated people I know. In fact, some of the rest of us nicknamed him ‘Guru’. Neither he nor I are very good at small talk, so this yearly call tends to be a three-hour soul purge of goal setting, insights, encouragement and corny jokes from high school. Last December, he said something that I’ve been considering all year long. “Everything that feels good tends to be bad for us,” he said. “Sugar, lying on the sofa, junk food, alcohol – all that stuff feels great in the short-term. A lot of times, what feels bad in the short-term is what’s good for us. It’s what grows us.”
Dang it, Guru.
He’s right; the easy choice isn’t always the best choice. This doesn’t mean we should pile on responsibilities, making life very hard. It means simplifying, at times being less busy but more productive. Even our small choices can add up to big positive changes.
Working with teens, I have this conversation weekly. Part of growing up is to be accountable and choose long-term success rather than short-term comfort. As we mature, I tell them, we think more about others. Our choices speak for us, and are the actions of our hearts.
Choosing what’s difficult can be an expression of love.
As the year winds down and we think of the Savior’s arrival, I’m reminded of His choices. The circumstances of his birth? No detail speaks of ease. A working-class couple far away from home, an arduous journey, a desperate search for safety, a humble entry into the world. He could have chosen ease, protection, sumptuous surroundings. He could have taken the best, because it all belongs to Him. Instead, he picked the most unlikely of beginnings to show us His love.
In His ministry, He embraced difficulty and redeemed it for beauty. He chose homelessness in order to be a home for the hurting. He welcomed children when He could have spent His energy with society’s most powerful. At times, He also chose to withdraw to rest and renew Himself. He knew when it was time to recharge so he could continue to serve and give. His timing was thoughtful and generous and kind.
His death was the ultimate display of love. Can we imagine a more difficult path to choose? The hard choice had to match the magnitude of His love and grace. No easy departure would do. There were countless chances to alter His course, to soften his hardships. But the Lord of creation took a humiliating, horrifying death to show us that this—this—is how much He loves us.
In His birth, His life, and His death, I see His love through His choices—the rightness of His plan is immense and breathtaking. His example inspires us to show love in our own choices. Even the small, daily decisions can be opportunities to care for others and adore the King. In 2018, can I be more open to choosing what’s right instead of what’s easy? Can I take better care of myself so that I can bless others with a full cup? Can I choose relationships over to-do lists? When we choose His way, the decision can be difficult, but the rewards will be ripples of love and grace washing over our communities.