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The tyranny of the salad dressing aisle

So many choices. So little time. Should we really be grateful?

I wheel my cart down the aisle slowly, perusing my options. I know what I want, at least I think I do. Until I see that the flavor I am looking for comes in no fat, low fat, and high test. There are also creamy and oil-based varieties, and at least half a dozen manufacturers. How do I choose?

Do I sort? by color, brand, fat content, flavor? The store has usually done a bit of this for me, thank goodness. That’s not because they love me, actually, but because they want me to buy. If I am overwhelmed I may just throw up my hands and leave the store empty-handed. That will not do – for them.

They know us. We’re shoppers. We come with a list in hand and an idea in mind. We want to check everything off, but deciding is tough. If there were just one of everything, it wouldn’t be. But that is not the world in which we live. We must choose. And choose rightly.

Why? Because there is cost. And it’s not just the number on the price tag. It’s the cost of “You got the wrong one!” “Ew, I don’t like that!” These weigh very heavily, especially when we are trying to keep everyone happy. And we have limited resources.

If I didn’t, I guess I could just bring home one of each and let them choose. Pass the tyranny on to them and call it freedom of choice. But I don’t. I stand and struggle under the weight of “making everyone happy.” Wanting to insure my success, I work backward. Calculating. Comparing. Sorting and selecting. Maybe in desperation I just pick one. Maybe in fear I take home an armful.

Either way, I do not win. The store wins. The product wins. And inevitably, someone at my table will be less than satisfied.

  • This isn’t what I wanted
  • This isn’t what I expected
  • This doesn’t taste right

Still, we love them. It’s amazing what happens when we sit around the table to partake of the same meal with the understanding that no one leaves the kitchen until the dishes are done. Conversation turns to more important things and the salad dressing takes a back seat.

It is amazing how important it seemed just hours before, when I was hosting the dinner. And how much it changes when Love takes over.

If we show them the level path, they’ll have what they need for the climb

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

I think something may be getting lost in the translation, here. Everywhere I look, I see parents starting their children off, holding their hand, walking with them, lugging their backpacks, bringing them water…harmless things. Helpful things.

That somehow turn into… must practice, must be at every game, must train, must compete, must enter tournaments, must “be seen by college coaches,”… There’s a dedication and discipline parents want to inspire. They dearly want to start them off on the right way.

But we’re reluctant to let go so they can find it. We get so caught up in the “way they should go” that they turn from it, just to spite us. It’s ‘our should’ not theirs and they say so.

Or they don’t. And maybe that’s worse. When they feel the weight of unspoken expectation invested in them and try to live up to it. Knowing, full well, they don’t have it in them. But seeking to please. Clamoring for praise. Daring not disappoint.

This way becomes covered in brambles. The ascent becomes steep. Footing precarious. Gravel gives way and they fall. Tumbling down. The higher they’ve climbed and the more mountainous the region, the more they are scraped and bruised and broken on the way down.

“Be pleasing!  seek praise! don’t disappoint!” echoes. They scramble to their feet, desperately searching for the trail head. Where is the path? Quickly, I must find it. I am falling behind, others are moving ahead! Must find the way I should go. Mom and Dad told me. Others encouraged me. Can’t let them down.

How many of our children are trapped in this place?

I expect the only safe excursion for parent and child is along the flat. Weaving in and out, following the paved way, learning where the edge is and which direction is forward. The pace? As long as it takes for small feet and little legs or great big sneakers and long limbs to make it their own. Their own pace. Their own swing. Their own shot. Their own path.

We, need only shout encouragement when they choose well. “That’s the way!” And to re-direct when they choose poorly.

The way up the mountain of God is narrow, the ledges best navigated single file. But at each turn there is a broad place, where God says, “Rest here a while. Eat if you’re hungry. Drink if you’re thirsty. Prepare for what’s ahead.” He knows it already. Walked the path. Chose it for us.

When we see it we know it is ours. Meant especially for us. Not simple to climb, but easy to choose. And climb we do, putting one foot in front of the other. Same step, different terrain.

No wonder we celebrate when baby takes his first step.

 

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