I recently placed an order at a sandwich shop that went something like this:
Me: I'd like a slim turkey with lettuce, please.
Employee: I'm sorry, you can't add lettuce to the slim turkey.
Me (confused): Really?
Employee: No, you can order a Number 4 without the cheese, tomatoes, or mayo.
Me: So instead of ordering the slim sandwich and adding just lettuce, you want me to order the larger sandwich and take away three items?
Employee: Yes. We can't add vegetables to the slim.
Me (again, confused): Really? Then can I order the slim turkey with a side of lettuce?
Employee (cheery but annoyed): I'm sorry, we can't sell vegetables on the side.
Me (now through gritted teeth trying to hold onto Jesus): Okay. How about you go ahead and give me the number 4, and hold the mayo, tomatoes and cheese.
Moral of the story: Not everyone will agree with my choices, or graciously help me make them. (But they will charge me more for the bigger sandwich.)
Our lives are full of choices and exceptions we get to make. I'll have this, but not that. I'll have two of those but six of these. I'll go here, but not there. I'll do this, but not that. We generally know what we want. In fact, knowing what we want is rarely the trouble. Issues arise, however, when what we choose, or what we want, bumps up against what someone else wants us to choose, or wants us to want.
1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
In other words, we are exceptional people designed to live exceptional lives. Exceptional means "outstanding and unusual; brilliant, remarkable, unique." Yes. Pick me (hand raised). I want to be that. What do I need to do?
Make exceptional choices. Even when others don't really want me to.
In the environment of our culture, it is more shocking to make a decision based on the Word of God than it is to make just about any other decision or choice known to man. The YOLO (You Only Live Once) attitude says nothing really matters but doing what you want to do. Throw all caution to wind! Be audacious! Be radical! Be crazy!
Or, be honest. Be honest about what really matters in your life. Be honest about what you want to be known for, and stand for. Be honest about the life you want to build. And then make exceptional choices that propel you in that direction.
Just like the Israelites you have a life, a future, and a promised land to flourish in IF YOU CHOOSE it. The path across the river into your promised land with be cluttered with options. Some of the options will be tempting and you will have to make choices that put you on the fringe of what others are doing. In other words, you will be set apart. It will mean doing things against the grain of culture. Maybe not going some places others go. Not doing some things others do.
Several years ago I ran a half marathon. The first third of the marathon was a lonely journey. There was no one there to cheer me on, to reinforce this was ever a good idea or remind me it was going to be worth it. I could have walked off the route, gotten in my car and gone for ice cream and no one would have known.
As the race progressed, clusters of people dotted the route with shouts of encouragement to keep going. By the last third of the race and over the finish line, people lined the route yelling, clapping, congratulating all the runners for their perseverance.
I think this is sometimes how we journey with the Lord. In the early miles of our races, we alone have to make our choices. No one is throwing us a parade or celebrating the sacrifices our choices require. But by the time our choices begin to yield results and the finish line is near, people you don't even know will line up to say, "Good job!" which is translated: nice choices.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
In the difficult days of decisions, be reminded your choices set you and your family apart to be protected when the (financial, health, whatever) storms hit. When you say no to the things culture screams yes to, you build up for your family an exception of safety.
A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you! (Psalm 91:7)
That is one exception I'm willing to make.
For discussion: We are increasingly called to be an alternative choice for a world struggling to understand who it is. What are some choices you have made in your life which establish you as an exceptional source for someone who may be looking for a new direction for their life?