Out of Exile: Day Fourteen – Limited Choices

I’m continuing to look at the losses that cause us to go into “exile.”  On Day Thirteen I looked at the pain of being invalidated.  Today I want to look at limited choices.

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.  When someone puts you in a position where you have fewer choices it complicates your life. It’s like you are in a card game and you only get dealt half a hand. It puts you at a huge disadvantage. It makes you mad. 

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to  feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.

Or imagine having to work with one hand tied behind your back. Or, what if there are 100 options before you and someone says, you can pick two. That means there is a loss of 98 items. That can make you mad.

If you are in ministry, the minute you chose the ministry, you limited your choices in life. One pastor friend of mine was struggling financially and he realized that, short of getting another job, he didn’t have any way to increase his income. Working longer hours or working harder made no impact on his income. He was stuck.

So, becoming a pastor might mean a limited income. And with a limited income you are limited in all kinds of purchases from your car to your house to your vacations and more.

If you live in a parsonage (a house provided to pastors)  you don’t have limited choice. You have no choice! That’s a loss.

Becoming a pastor means you give away your weekends…for life. I don’t know about you but I rarely do anything on Saturday and when I do, I’m preoccupied.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never have a normal holiday. You’ll always come late to the party, maybe days late, if at all. And when you finally arrive, most people are gone and you are too tired to care.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never get to see the kickoff on Sunday. I know it’s a small thing, but I’m trying to get you to understand that ministry causes losses of all shapes and sizes.

Becoming a pastor means you automatically give up some of your evenings because that’s when people are free to meet.

Start adding up these losses and the sum total can make you feel boxed in: it’s an exile.  You can live with an underlying anger at these losses. So you need to look deeper. What’s the real issue? What really bothers you about these losses? What are the secondary losses?

There are a few. As I mentioned, there’s the loss of control. You feel boxed in.  Dallas Willard talks about the importance of a person having the ability to choose:

 In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere. Only so can they be persons. Any being that has say over nothing at all is no person… They would be reduced to completely passive observers who count for nothing, who make no difference.

For this reason, limited choices create a loss of control as well as a loss of respect. You feel like less of a person. Limited choices also create a loss of freedom.

Think through your life. Where have your choices been limited?  Those are the primary losses. Then think deeper; what are the emotional losses associated with those limited choices? Those are the secondary losses.

Bring all of these to God. Tell him how you feel. Ask him to speak to you about these losses. What does he want you to know? How can he show you his abundance in the face of these losses?

Please share your thoughts below and share this post on Facebook. Thanks.


3 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day Fourteen – Limited Choices

  1. Lisa

    I didn’t realize how much loss is attached to ministry until you started naming it. When we freely chose to go into ministry, we willingly were ready to daily “deny ourselves”, “pick up our crosses” and “follow Jesus”. It felt like a joy and free choices. We were in agreement with God. Denying ourselves became a way of life. Initially, we were unaware of a few consequences that would be attached to all that freedom. Making free choices scared people. Our unbelieving biological family disdained us for “ruining” our lives”. Even our local fellowship acknowledged us as “fools for Christ ” and our choices took them way out of their comfort zone. It didn’t necessarily gain respect either. We did miss the emotional support. Eventually, my hubby and I learned between the two of us, we had differences in what we could deny and not release yet. He could live on the proverbial “worms”, I could not and I wouldn’t permit our children to go there. And when we realized this denial was affecting our stewardship in bad way, our marriage in an adverse manner, the loss of my husband’s consistent companionship was killing me and our children were not flourishing but feeling punished by God, we had to take stock and make some hard decisions. It took us some time to flounder in the process. Remaining in agreement with God was top priority for us but how?? was the big question. What were healthy boundaries that we all could appreciate and find joy in? God’s abundance came in the form of choices. Reminding ourselves that we were not victims but children of God with choices was a big step. That’s when we drew from the Apostle Paul’s example of “tent making” . We could remain in ministry but liberated from depending on the local congregation for financial support and time constraints created new opportunities for us. It felt like a lot of drama in the shifting and shaking of a new direction. There are some lasting consequences that set us back in a worldly way but discussion like you are hosting are shedding new good light on that whole process. Where the mourning turns to comfort. We are still in the process of appreciating the choices and much more aware of long term consequences that are attached to each good/bad choices we make. The key is God made you in His image with free will. He wants you to exercise your choices. And God likes it when it is to His glory.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I think where we go wrong in all of this, is we overlook the loss of our decisions and paste over them with Bible verses or cliches, like, “I gave that to the Lord.” I wrote about this in one of the early days of the journey. You said it well when you talked about “denying ourselves” and “picking up your cross.” Yes, very true. We gladly do that for God. What we don’t realize in that moment is that even though we sacrifice for the Lord, it’s still a loss and consequences will follow our decision. In many ways, God makes up for the losses: Jesus said that he gives us a hundred times over in this life and the life to come. But it’s still a loss. We have to be careful not to go into denial about that. And we can’t impose contentment on those around us (spouse and kids especially). It doesn’t help to tell them that “we gave that to the Lord.” What they need to hear is that we appreciate the loss/pain. It’s very real to them, even if you don’t feel it at their same level. And then help them find God in the loss.

      I really appreciate your processing this out loud with all the readers. I know many readers can identify with you, if they don’t write. Some just don’t know how to articulate all that is on their heart in a short space. I’m glad you are learning about the choices that God gives us and along with the joy and freedom those choices bring.

  2. Lisa

    Thankful for these insights: * Avoid glossing over the loss and imposing contentment on others (thinking of my kids especially). Seems like compassion and mutual understanding toward others will improve. 🙂 Thanks for letting me “flesh” these things out on your page, it’s nice to get objective feed back.

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