It started in college, and became a running joke between my parents and myself through the years. When I was at ECU, my folks would ask if I was coming home for the weekend.
“Well, I’m planning on it, but I’m not sure,” I would typically answer.
“You mean, unless something else better comes along,” Daddy jokingly responded one time. Daddy sure knew his son. And that line would stick through the years.
“Unless something else better comes along.” It was good to go home, get some home cooking, and visit the folks. But something may come up back in Greenville. The guys I hang with may plan something for Friday night. There may be a cool event on campus that weekend that I didn’t know about. Or, there was the possibility, slim though it may be, I could actually line up a date for the weekend. So, I was planning to go home and see the folks, unless something that seemed better came along.
And that was the way it was during most of my adult years. Going back home was a good thing, and I did it when I could. But home was an hour away, and sometimes I just didn’t feel like making the trip. It was an option, but there were often many others available. There were times when going back home was necessary and important, like for birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings. But, most of the time it was just one of the options to consider.
We all like options. Growing up, we had to choose from only three TV channels. Now I can pick from over a hundred. We all want a well-stocked buffet, with lots of choices, when we go out to eat. Let’s face it, the more choices the better. Getting to choose between 10 restaurants for dinner Friday is better than having to choose between only three.
Well, except maybe for the restaurants themselves. If there are only three in a small town, all serving good food, all can prosper. But if there are 10 in that same size market, probably all will suffer and some won’t make it.
We like all those extra channels and choices on our TV. All those other options, including the internet, Netflix and Amazon, have made life much more difficult for major network executives. (Of course, some better quality programming could help the situation.)
Yes, we all like to have options, especially when it comes to our weekends. There are lots of things to do, and we like it that way. Let’s face it, when I grew up, there really weren’t that many opportunities during the weekend. You worked all week, caught up on chores around the house on Saturday, went to church on Sunday, and back to work on Monday. There was the occasional vacation, maybe a special family outing, but that was seldom. Church attendance was not considered an option, but almost an obligation, one to be kept, except for those infrequent special occasions.
Today, it seems to most Americans that church is just an option for their time. Maybe a good option, but still just one of the many choices for their valuable spare time. Research has shown that the number of Americans identifying themselves as Christians has declined nearly 10 percent over the last 10 years. I’m sure that has much to do with the declining church attendance. But there is another, more subtle reason. Just as I was with my folks, many might go to church unless “something else better has come along.”
So rather than attending church three or four Sundays a month, it’s now maybe two. There’s the weekend trip, visiting family, yard chores, travel ball, or just resting from a hard week at work. These are, in and of themselves, not bad things. But church ends up being just another one of the options for Sunday. Much of this attitude is due to the culture in which we live. And the organized church, with few exceptions, has done little to respond to today’s culture.
So, it’s another Sunday with a lot of options for the day. But God will not allow Himself to be considered an “option.” And life often has a way of narrowing down those options until God is the only option left. Then, hopefully, it will be found that the only option left was actually the best option after all.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.