taking the words of Jesus seriously

A friend of mine was playing golf at her country club  when she began to recognize a disturbing pattern: there were a lot of complaints about meaningless things.

I asked for more detail, and she said, “Oh, you know, just normal POP stuff.” I looked at her questioningly and she said, “POP. You know, Problems of Privilege. We’re playing golf on a beautiful course with everything we could ever really ask for, and yet we still find things to complain about. Problems of Privilege.”

I laughed out loud at that one! Indeed there is such a thing as POP, and most of us have some level of the affliction. A few people handle it well. But almost nobody is immune.

It seems to me that POP is often caused by the enormous number of choices that we have.  For instance, I debriefed a guy who had spent a year living overseas in a remote location, and he talked about going to the grocery store to buy pickles shortly after his return to the States. First he had to decide which grocery store to visit. Then it took forever to decide which pickles — round ones, long skinny ones, whole ones, flavored ones, etc. etc. When he finally made his choice, he then had to figure out which line to get in. Self-checkout? Express Lane? Cash only? Not really knowing which lane was best, he just picked one and was then asked, “Check, credit, debit, cash?” Once that decision was made, he was finally asked, “Paper, plastic, or did you bring a canvas bag?”

At this point he froze. Having not yet paid, stunned by all the choices, clearly suffering from culture shock, he simply walked out of the store. It was the only way to deal with it all. All he wanted was pickles.  But he had to make dozens of decisions to get there, and it was both bewildering and irritating.

Although I’ve never had that exact experience, I know the feeling.  It eventually leads to a sense of privilege that we resent.  We want all those choices, but we hate them at the same time.

Recently in my devotional I came across an interesting bit of dialogue from the book Merlin by Stephen Lawhead:

“I have not lost my way — it is just that so many ways open before me that sometimes I hardly know which way to choose. To decide for one is to decide against another. I never imagined it would be this hard.”

“Now you know. The higher a person’s call and vision, the more choices are given them. This is our work in creation: to decide. And what we decide is woven into the thread of time and being for ever. Choose wisely, then, but you must choose.”

Ever felt like that? So many choices, all of them seeming to be good choices, all of them fun or healthy or joyful … but we can’t pursue them all. We can be paralyzed by so many options. And become bitter by the very things we consider a privilege.

Yet it is our responsibility to choose. One of the first lessons I learned as a young adult is that with authority comes responsibility. To those who are given much, much more will be expected.

So do we fail that responsibility by focusing on the Problems of Privilege? Yes, we often do. Or at least I do, and I suspect you do as well. That’s one of the temptations we have to battle in this journey.

Roy Goble is the owner of the family real estate investment firm Goble Properties.  He is also the President of PathLight International, which serves at-risk youth by providing educational opportunities that integrate faith and learning.  Roy is a Trustee of Westmont College, Chair of the Board for The SOLD Project, and is founder of several non-profit organizations.  He and his wife D’Aun live in Pleasanton, California.  You can read more about Roy at www.junkyardwisdom.com.

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