Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pre-choice Choices

Written by: on January 12, 2017


Have you ever dealt with teenagers?

There are more changes in a teenager in just a few minutes than any other human being that I know.   It is incredible how mature one of these strange creatures can appear and then in just a few moments and a few breathes, they can be a huge ball of emotion, or a human canon ball of destructive self-doubt.   If the hormonal level gets just right there can be an explosion of joy or an implosion of hatefulness, all in just a blink of the eye.   The Social Animal, David Brook’s New York Times Bestselling book, seemed to be the perfect book for someone in my profession.    There was no disappointment in reading it!


David Brooks self-declared intentions to attempt to integrate science and psychology with sociology, politics, cultural commentary and the literature of success was a delightful read that took the reader on a journey of the highest highs and the lowest lows.[1]   Some of the greatest taboos of our society were mentioned by name in their own proper context.  No thought or idea was left covered up and by his own admission, the author was clear that this is not a book to be digested in a simple review but instead to be viewed as thirty years of research.  He integrated and named so many scientific researchers in context instead of through their clinical eyes.  What an incredible journey of thoughts as he stated “things that people think but never say.”


And with that in mind, let’s look specifically at two scenes from the book that are so perfectly pictured.


In the very beginning the story of Rob and Julia, as they moved toward each other with so many story lines going on inside their head before they even say hello.  The author allows us to hear and understand this strange dance of relationship in the subconscious.  This thought process is spectacular.  I have seen this danced out so many time in front of me that it seemed incredibly familiar. The fact that people are often afflicted with a “Flaw-O-Matic”, an internal device that spots shortcomings in a potential mate, is so accurate.[2]  The strange dance that takes place when two people start the ritual of dating was so humorously spelled out from the dating table to the proposal.   How many times does this initial start have the signs to go another way and they are ignored?   Trapping someone for life?  Or how many times is there this initial contact and the truth is, it is the naturally right thing to do, but one of the parties talks themselves out of the relationship at the first dinner?   This was so intriguing and true to life.  Choices that are made in the maddening dance do truly affect the course of life.  Choosing wisely instead of just randomly is the moral of this story.   Choosing Godly or Christian at this pivotal moment is crucial to being spiritual into the future.


The second story that grabbed me was the detailed explanation of limerence.  The phrase, “the desire for limerence” was repeated multiple times. It exploded the concept of being in harmony as a priority.  This concept is about desire.  All relationships have desire and this book certainly looked at every kind of desire in relationship, but this section was very enlightening.

Let me list a few:

  • The desire for limerence Is the moment when tension is released.
  • The desire for limerence drives us to seek perfection
  • The desire for limerence propels us intellectually
  • The desire for limerence Is fulfilled with another person
  • The desire for limerence Is at its most profound during those transcendent moment when people feel themselves fused with nature or with God, when the soul lifts up and feeling of oneness with the universe pervades their being.
  • People seek limerence with one another[3]

Harmony is such a powerful emotion and connection.  The happy life is defined by these sorts of connections and the unhappy life is defined by a lack of them.[4]  Harmony with God is only a little blip in the whole conversation of this book but it is right in the middle of the subject matter of “finding harmony in life.” Harmony with another person and then harmony with God makes perfect sense to me.   It sounds a lot like unity or alignment.


I would interject that in the “free for all world” that is described in this book, having some moorings to ground your life to is crucial.  I don’t disagree with all the things described. I believe Brooks’ picture is truly accurate but there are more influences than science to life.   There are things that are spiritual.  I know that “religion” is a word that is rejected but there are spiritual choices that affect our lives.   I have used the phrase “pre-choice choices” for years because you never know when the first story is going to happen and you surely don’t know when the latter is going to happen.  So, if you make choices in advance about who you will allow into the story line (basically you give guidelines to your choices before your emotions, hormones and whatever else kicks in), it will allow you to have a destiny that is spiritual instead of just one that is completely chance.

I am challenged by the task of continuing to urge teenagers to fight through what naturally happens to make the spiritual happen first.  They don’t have the best guidance system yet as I suggested in the opening, so they are going to need someone to help guide them and point them to the truth.



[1]David Brooks The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, (New York, Random House, 2012), 383.

[2]Ibid., 10.

[3]Ibid., 208-209

[4]Ibid., 211.

About the Author


Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 34 years. On February 14th, 1994, 27 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 21 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is currently working with animals and loves to go on trail rides with her horse. London is my 10 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Golfing, baseball and Hawaii is his latest adventures. He skied for the first time in Colorado this year. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening. I earned my Doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox on Feb 10, 2018.

16 responses to “Pre-choice Choices”

  1. Hi Kevin. Happy New Year! I love your concept of pre-choice choice. For teenagers, I have observed, that peers and other adults besides their parents have a huge influence (and limerence perhaps) on their choices and pre-choices. As a youth leader, what are some ways you help your members look to the “right” adults? You also wrote, “I am challenged by the task of continuing to urge teenagers to fight through what naturally happens to make the spiritual happen first.” How do you do that? How do we make the spiritual happen first?

    • Kevin Norwood says:


      Thanks for the comments. I have over my whole career in youth ministry tried to develop a peer to peer ministry. I don’t necessarily position adults in their path but I do put other students (leaders) who are facing the same choices and decisions. Equipping them with the very best knowledge that I can in how to navigate moral choices, which means that I talk about real issues, (sex, lust, porn, masturbation, drama, bullying, mean girls, girl drama…etc.)

      I also talk about the power of the Holy Spirit to make a radical change in your life. When you are powerless you must grab ahold of the power of Christ to help you in those powerless moments.

      Making choice in advance because some one lets them in on what they are going to face. Being honest enough to set students up in a spiritual moment to make sexual choices in advance before lust overrides their thought process. To make truth choices over convenience. Calling it what it is and then pray that since they have thought about it in advance they will at least pause before they jump. That moment is what makes all the difference… Spiritual moments that have been pre established makes navigating life a little bit easier.


  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Kevin, I am officially the father of a teenager, so your opening statement grabbed my attention. I’ve been observing the emotional changes that you described for the past months now (:

    Thank you for investing your life to impact the lives of youth. I am sure that there are many parents who are glad to have you as a spiritual support system for their teens. There is a documentary called, “Inside the Teenage Brain” that studies the brain changes that happen during adolescence. I thought you may be interested in watching it. (You can watch it online here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/inside-the-teenage-brain/).


    • Kevin Norwood says:

      Thanks so much for the information. I will check that out. I am always looking for new things and new ways to communicate.

      The thought process described in the book will be the norm unless there is something more powerful established in it’s “natural” path. Spiritual choices really do make a difference at a young age and at the teenage age. I am convinced of it. Being full of the Holy Spirit and his power makes navigating this social media charged world possible for teenagers.


  3. Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Kevin for a great topic for the blog,
    “Pre-choice Choices”. It is normal for teens to challenge their parents’ values, beliefs, and practices as a way to test parents and assert their independence, but it is greater when teenagers have a mentors to help them.

    These are differcult times for teenagers, and they have many choices to makes and sometime peer pressure may factor heavily into the decision making process regarding serious issues such as drinking alcohol at parties, trying drugs, having sexual relationships, joining gangs, etc.

    I like the way you brought your passion for the youth into play in this reading blog. I believe God has graced you with this mission.I pray that this semester is a great one for you, and it nice to share with you! Rose Maria

    • Kevin Norwood says:


      What is normal and naturally is what this author described. That is why I feel it is so vital to insert the spiritual into what is natural. The power of the Holy Spirit really does make the difference in the choices that are so charged especially in this social media day that we live in.

      The Holy Spirit can change thoughts, choices, actions and mindsets. I count on partnering with him to be effective in reaching teenagers. If they choose before they face the issue it helps them to make great choices instead of just good ones.


      • Rose Anding says:

        Kevin, You are right on target,, because it is always the Holy Spirit at work, when changes are being made. In my work as a chaplain / counselor I know that the Holy Spirit starts before I am involved.

        I pray God blessing upon you as carry out your assignment. Rose Maria

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    By your opening question, I sense your bewilderment and challenges in dealing with the teenage psyche of today. The scenarios concerning teens are basically the same in every generation, but nuanced with the changing times. Remember, “this too shall pass.” From your posts, it is evident that God has given you the grace and humility to love, contend with, seek to understand, and lead these young people in His ways. By His grace you will be victorious in “urging teenagers to fight through what naturally happens to make the spiritual happen first,” because you have been assigned to help guide them and point them to the truth. You are God’s man for such a time as this, my brother.

    Kevin, you have helped me to have a better appreciation of Brooks’ book in your discussion on limerence which motivated me to re-read this section for a greater understanding. The author intentionally shies away from openly declaring any purpose or creative design/order of God from the finding of recent research. But, I think the most profound and insightful phrase in the entire book is, “The desire for limerence is at its most profound during those transcendent moments when people feel themselves fused with nature and with God, when the soul lifts up and a feeling of oneness with the universe pervades their being.” (p. 209).

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      Thanks Claire.

      I simply described like our author what is natural for teenagers to do. If any of us just follow the natural path that was described, we position ourselves to be god over our own life. Choosing to have a spiritual side to life means that you have some moral bearings that help make critical choices.

      I found it interesting that right in the middle of this book there was this reference to the spiritual when it comes to harmony. Isn’t that what we have discovered? Harmony with God brings harmony in life. Being aligned with God allows us freedom to make Him responsible for our choices instead of just ourselves.

      I found this book interesting because he wrote about the unseen narrative that goes on in our head. The one thing I thought was dismissed was the spiritual choices that people make that affects everything. I am not just talking about God and spirituality but even those who have a spiritual commitment to perpetrate evil as well. Choice making is affected by what we are introduced to and those influence are so powerful that they hold life and death and ultimately eternity.

      Thanks for your comments


  5. Aaron Cole says:


    Great blog. Reading your blog and this book brought the following questions to mind. When it comes to your students, do you find that more of them are like Harold or Erica? Has that always been the case? If you see it changing, which environment is on the rise?

  6. Kevin Norwood says:


    That is an interesting question. I believe I have had both of them all the way through my ministry. I have not always had the most churched up kids come and be a part of what we are doing. I have seen those who were so powerful and strong and I have seen those who were submissive but not willing to lead. I believe I have had kids on all sides of this equation.

    Interesting that you said the word environment. I believe environment affects kids more than anything. What are they exposed to? At what age? What develops their decision making process? Is there a grandma who is stable in the midst of both of their parents being all over the place. Is there any stability in the middle of all the context?

    Sometimes my kid who are in the greatest environment (grandparents on both sides love Jesus, both sets of parents love Jesus) and they just choose to rebel because of one friendship they make. The gravitate to another environment because they can’t see the gravity of those choices but instead all they see is the “fun and freedom.” When gravity finally comes back to play in their life, it can cause a pretty hard crashing! Can spirituality change environment? I have to believe that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than environment. In an instance the power of an individual friend can be overridden by the truth.

    If this Gospel that we preach and believe doesn’t have any power in it than what we do is pointless. So I depend on the Holy Spirit to give the power that I do not have to do what I cannot do. He can change any environment permanently. I can’t but He CAN!


  7. Phil Goldsberry says:


    Great post! I enjoyed and read this book intently.

    Of great interest was the usage of the word “limerence”. I love your quote from the book:
    “The desire for limerence is at its most profound during those transcendent moment when people feel themselves fused with nature or with God, when the soul lifts up and feeling of oneness with the universe pervades their being.”

    How do we help people “feel themselves fused with nature or with God”? This is the question that I circulates in my mind continually. How can we as ministers of the Gospel become transcendent agents for Christ at a higher level?


  8. Kevin Norwood says:


    I can present the truth in a fresh and current way. But really the truth cuts through all of those narratives going on in a persons head. The truth empowered by the Holy Spirit allows the person to make a change but sometimes I am not sure we allow enough time or space for this to happen. I am working toward 15 minutes of this kind of time in our youth service. I know that sounds like a bunch but the other night I took our students to a youth revival where there was no pressure on an ending time and they hung out in the altar for 45 minutes. Maybe there is something to change with this generation.


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