The Half-Lived Life

Choosing ice cream flavors was the worst when I was little. I could never make up my mind between chocolate or mint, so after working myself into a tiny internal tizzy, I’d ask if I could have some of both. Over the years, I learned that if you’re quiet and polite, you’re very seldom asked to make up your mind about anything. The proverbial fence became the most comfortable place in the world (though in reality it allows you to be an easy target for both sides). I’m not talking about keeping peace—I’m talking about living in a constant state of “eh.”

The underlying drive in this mindset is fear: if you make up your mind, you will inevitably disappoint someone who thinks the opposite. So I became quite proficient at avoiding awkward conflict by choosing “some of both.” This method would have gone swimmingly had it not been for the slight fact that I serve a God who came to die to destroy the fence I lived on.

Scripture includes some very stark concepts (and gasp! statements!) that demand a response. Consider a few (with emphasis added):

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

(Joshua 24:15)

[God says] I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days…

(Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

(Luke 21:14-15)

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

(James 1:6-8)

Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.

(Matthew 12:30)

Really, the whole Bible itself is a statement of truth demanding a response of whether we will accept it as such or not. You can’t put your faith in a Savior who tells us to love other believers as He loved us—with every last bit of all He had—and refuse to obey Him in that. “No, Lord” is an oxymoron. I can choose to submit myself to the uncomfortable place of change, or I can set myself up as God, the fence I ride being a very silly throne. And biblically speaking, being on any throne in defiance of the King of the universe is not a pleasant place to be.

A half-lived life, empty of any real choices, is also empty of any real meaning. If you keep your heart safe and locked away, you can’t know the true, deep joy of celebrating with others. If you refuse to let yourself feel anything because it might hurt too much, you’ll miss the sweetness of a friend’s quiet presence in the midst of tragedy. If nothing can get to you, you’re safe in the ice-encrusted prison you made for yourself, and the years you could be experiencing life to the full, as Jesus intended, you actually spend in fear and loneliness. Your whole heart isn’t in anything, so you only experience half-joys, half-disappointments, half-love, half-everything, until nothing truly matters.

Choosing not to choose is a doomed attempt at avoiding the consequences of not making the right choice. I was shocked the first time I read Revelation 21:8—”But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” The very first item started slaughtering my desire to play it safe by never making any actual choices, considered by God to be right up there with murder. If I’m a good Christian girl who acts like a chicken, am I really a good Christian girl? A book I read recently says that “God, it seems, prefers chutzpah to status.”

The bottom line is that a half-lived life is an atheistic life, one that has no desperate expectation of God’s power showing up, no reliance on His grace because we’ve protected ourselves from needing grace. Jesus calls us to courageous living, of releasing ourselves from the chains of timidity, so deciding on either chocolate or mint in every sphere is an act of obedience. When you think about it, living the half-life isn’t really living at all.

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