Every day we’re called upon to make all sorts of decisions. Most of these are obvious and automatic. But some important choices may not be that clear cut, and the stakes can be high. Some of us tend to be “Internal Processors,” mulling over the question from various points of view. Others seem to come to better decisions through “External Processing,” asking other people for their ideas about the question, until a clear decision comes into focus. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Internal Processors hear only from voices in their heads; this means they don’t have to “go public” with every choice they make, but, on the other hand, they might miss out on other perspectives. “External Processors” have the opportunity to receive wisdom from others; however, they may waffle between many voices and be indecisive.
Tevya, the lead character in Fiddler on the Roof, does some Internal Processing in his famous monologue on whether to consent to his daughter’s marriage to a non-Jew:
How can I accept them?
Can I deny everything I believe in?
On the other hand, can I deny my own daughter?
On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith? My people?
If I try and bend that far, I will break.
On the other hand . . . No There is no other hand! *
Though Tevya is talking to himself — arguing with himself —, he’s opening up to the theater or movie audience, so this also becomes the ultimate in External Processing!
The meditative books of the Bible talk a lot about how a believer processes positive and negative feelings within her/his mind:
If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot is slipping,” your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (Psalm 94:17-19)
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; So I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.” The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:17-24)
Christian fellowship adds an external dimension to this process:
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:25)
The more we come to trust each other, the more we can experience the fullness of this validation of our inner deliberations. The New Testament makes it very clear that the Holy Spirit is involved in both our Internal Processing and our External Processing within the fellowship of believers. That’s how we can come to be confident we’re being guided to the right choices.
Our final thought has to be one of caution. We’re human, as individuals and as a church fellowship, so we can make mistakes. Remember that when Tevya proclaimed, with confidence, “There is no other hand!” he was wrong. Ultimately, he had to give in to the love between his daughter and her Gentile boyfriend. When we’ve made our best, sincere, prayerful decision, we have to be humble enough to say to the Lord, “If it is your will.”
– Pastor George Van Alstine
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqZ3n3ifMSg – Beginning at 4:13