Decide What You Want to Be and Go Be It

How everyday actions shape who we are.

"Decide what to be and go be it," sing the Avett Brothers in their song: “Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full Of Promise.” The song is as catchy and hyper-positive as the rest of the Avett catalogue, but boil it down to its roots and you’re left with a sermon as simple as it is challenging: Hey you! You can do anything! But you have to actually, you know, go do it.

That’s an easy concept to grasp, and tough instruction to follow. My fingers can crumple a photograph of Mount Everest, but I would probably die trying to climb it.

Every action carries consequences. Very little or maybe none of what we do is neutral.

But while we know big actions, such as deciding to climb a mountain, require us to get up and go do something, we often forget that every action carries consequences. Very little or maybe none of what we do is neutral—we’re pulling ourselves in one direction, or pushing ourselves the other. Right now I am drinking a milkshake, and it’s making me fatter. My brain activity is slowing, and although my creativity experienced a momentary spike, it has long since unspiked itself. What I really want to do is close my laptop, pop downstairs, and sit on the couch. Maybe I’ll browse Twitter on my iPad, or maybe I’ll watch a couple episodes of Arrested Development. I just want to lounge. Thanks, milkshake.

But lest you think I am some kind of lazy sloth-man, I’ll have you know I’ve recently started running. An incredible feat, I know. What a trooper. What an inspiration. OK—it’s nothing crazy—but I’ve been running three days a week for the last 10 weeks, and I’m getting better at it. For a guy who has never seriously followed any exercise regimen in his entire life, this is worth a minor celebration. I enjoy the endorphin rush, and overall I have substantially more energy than I had a month ago. Thanks, running!

These are obvious examples: Milkshakes can make us fat, and running gives us energy. But you and I make hundreds of little, course-altering decisions every day. We choose to walk, or bike or drive. We choose to sit in front of the TV or sit across from a friend. We choose to tip our barista or give him attitude for messing up our drink. We become who we are without even thinking about it.

I want to be more generous. But I’ve found it difficult to actually be more generous. I recently drove with some friends to Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts at the inane hour of 3 in the morning. I got out of the car and headed toward the door. On the way there, a man in tattered clothes quietly asked if I had any cash. I might have said no, or maybe I didn’t answer. I don’t remember. I do remember reaching the door and pulling the handle. I slipped inside. Lost in the saccharine fragrance of oil and sugar, I bought myself a maple-coated old-fashioned. I ate it. Delicious. Then I drove home.

The thing is, Voodoo Doughnuts is cash only. I had cash on me. I could have given the man a dollar. I could have bought him a doughnut. I didn’t. It was an innocent decision, but instead of becoming more generous I became more doughnut-ous. Bummer.

We become who we are without even thinking about it.

When it’s daytime and my ambitions are anchored to the sun, I point my nose there and proclaim to the world that I want to be a better human. But when faced with the opportunity to do the things I supposedly value so highly, I don’t always follow through. Do you?

Of course we can’t do things all on our own—we need God to provide a path, but we have to move down that path. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He parted the Red Sea and then told Moses “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on” (Exodus 14:15). Move on. Take the first steps.

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All of our decisions matter, even the little ones. Every second matters. We’re always moving toward something and away from something. That doesn’t mean that we should stress out about everything, but it does mean that we should be thoughtful about how we spend our time—and after being thoughtful, we must make actual changes in our lives. Do you want to be healthier? OK, start exercising and eliminate unhealthy food. Do you want to read great literature? OK, actually read great literature instead of tabbing infinitely between Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. Do you want to be a good writer? OK, actually try writing something. Hey—that’s what I’m doing now!

Maybe this go get ‘em attitude is as naively optimistic as that Avett Brothers song. I hope it is. We can do anything! But we have to actually, you know, go do it.




Kari commented…

This was a great read. Loved the humor you wrote with as well.

Nathaniel Marshall


Nathaniel Marshall commented…

What a timely reminder. A sister issue to this is only doing things when we feel like it or when it interests us, rather than disciplining ourselves to do things consistently (whatever "things" may be: running, writing, Scripture memory, etc.). Passion and discipline work together, passion to push us towards greatness, discipline to keep us there. But I find this to be a tendency for me AFTER your problem, which is to just "go do it".



Olivia commented…

I was so excited to see my familiarity with the Avett Brothers wasnt a complete waste (thanks Pandora!). But yeah-we're capable of so much but don't reach for things. I'm doing my best to make goals and reach, especially after having wasted time. the verse from Exodus really hit home. I heard it said most people don't do things because our culture is caught up with achivemnts, but not the diligence and work required for them-I think that's partially true.

Una Opiyo


Una Opiyo commented…

Lol on the "be more generous" one. I've experienced it,it's like the second you make that decision, God will give you someone who needs your generosity at the next possible time...when you want a doughnut & only have enough for 1! :)

Becki Gibson


Becki Gibson commented…

My heart is in my throat, but that is aften where it can be found when the Spirit leads. Don't think I've ever put this in words but for whoever needs to hear this, here it goes. I've read the stories and heard the accounts more times than I can count about passing by the person begging for food or money, but unlike many the memory that jogs in my head isn't of when I last passed someone by (although I certainly have) but rather of when that was the 15 year old me. It was of my own choice that I left home, but it was also the fear of home that kept me from going back. I hadn't been gone for long, but long enought that the $12 I had to my name was long gone. I still remember it was Wendy's that day where I stood by the door, humiliated but hungry enough to ask strangers if they would buy me something to eat. I still remember the sting of many who wouldn't even look me in the eye, or those that shook their heads in disgust. And I still remember the one that said yes and bought me a burger and met my need in that moment for food. "Every action has consequences." Someone, a stranger, chose to say yes to my plea for food - for that I am grateful. But, inside what that lost teenager was really crying out for, and maybe didn't know how to say, was that I needed someone to notice me. For someone to stop and ask me my story - why aren't you in school, where is your family, why don't you have food, how can I help? Sometimes I wonder, maybe, just maybe, if someone had done that maybe that night wouldn't have happened. Maybe someone would have gotten me off the streets, or gotten me home, maybe... You see that night would become my nightmare, an event that will burn in my memory for the rest of my life, one that I wish I could erase, one I blame myself for and have a hard time letting sit beneath the grace of Jesus. You see that night again I didn't have food and I didn't have a place to sleep, it was cold and dark and I was scared and I had no one. But there was a man, twice my age, and he was willing to get a hotel room... I doubt I really need to fill in the rest. I found the strength the next day to find REAL help and get to a safe place. And, I'm beyond blessed that that one night didn't turn into a lifetime. But, I stop and listen more, especially when young people are involved. I'm happy to buy someone a meal, but I also ask "what's your story?" Matthew 4:4 (The Message) Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” Be the words of God to someone, you never know the consequence it could have.

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