The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t have a lot of memorable episodes. Making it through that first season feels a lot like eating your soggy vegetables before your delicious steak.
One of the few highlights from that first season is the episode “11001001.” In it, the Enterprise’s computer goes through an upgrade with the help of the Bynars, a species that works in pairs and depends on computers to communicate at tremendous speeds. As their name suggests, the Bynars can only view the universe through a binary lens. In every situation and with every decision to be made, there are only two choices.
A or B.
One or two.
This or that.
That sort of outlook is fine for a fictional race on a science fiction television show. Binary thinking in real life, though, can be dangerous, especially when trying to discern God’s will.
Often when we look at our lives and try to choose God’s path for our lives, we act like the Bynars: we think that there are only two decisions. We think that there is one path that God will bless and allow us to live the lives for which we were created, and we think there’s another path that might as well lead directly to hell.
Sometimes the choice is that clear. If someone is choosing between serving orphans in a foreign country and dealing drugs to elementary kids, then that really is a binary decision. God cannot and will not bless willful, sinful decisions in which we want to harm others or ourselves. Also, sometimes we clearly hear God tell us to choose one path over another; in that situation there really is a right choice and a wrong choice.
Most of our lives’ choices, though, can’t be boiled down to right and wrong. We don’t live in a binary world and God isn’t just waiting to zap us when we choose Door #1 when we were supposed to choose Door #2. Most of our choices are between good and good or better and better. God can use us and bless us on so many different paths; we shouldn’t be forced into false binary thinking.
For a long time when I was a youth pastor I absolutely knew that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I had gone as far to say that if I had been doing anything else, then I would have been being disobedient. That all changed last year, though, when I had the option of keeping my job or pursing a dream. God could have continued to use me as a youth pastor and I’m hopeful he’ll use me as a speaker and a writer. Neither of those choices was wrong and I trust that God is big enough to use me whatever path I walk.
It’s less about the external decisions than it is the internal decisions we make on a daily basis. If I’m choosing every day to make God the priority in my life, to honor him with my actions and spread his kingdom in all that I do, then it doesn’t matter what path I’m on. We could be a businessperson, a pastor, a teacher, a student, a mechanic or a professional athlete; but if we’re choosing God in our lives, then what we do with our lives will work itself out.
When do you feel like you only have a binary decision to make?