Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I...
Even if you’re not familiar with Robert Frost, you probably know that’s not how the poem goes. But that newly edited version is a fine reflection of what my decision making process looks like. Not all of it of course. Let’s not fall under the assumption that I gawk and tremble at choosing between wearing skinny jeans versus black leggings every morning. But it’s a fair representation of what many of us become when asked to make a choice.
Should I have majored in this subject rather than that one? Maybe he was the one I ought to have married? Did I choose the right career path? Would I have been happier moving abroad rather than staying here? How many kids is too many?
Decisions surround us. They encompass our daily lives and serve as a reminder of God’s generous and glorious gift of free will. Nevertheless, that beautiful gift has become more of a crippling fear than a freeing one. Our choices are limitless, and for those living in the western world, that can be a very anxious and stress inducing privilege. Make one that is less than ideal and we easily fall into a pit of despair and shame. Like Adam and Eve, who hid themselves from the presence of God after eating the forbidden fruit, we follow in our parents’ footsteps. Seldom do we trust God’s presence in our lives, instead we doubt His goodness, choose to cover ourselves in secret and divert our eyes from His gaze.
But who can hide from God? More importantly, who can hide from God’s sovereign will? When we are crippled by indecision or worried of living in the aftermath of one, we are saying in our hearts that we are suspicious of God’s hand in our lives and superior to God Himself. For at the basis of such thought lies the belief that our decisions can alter our future for better or for worse. When deciding between option A or option B (given that the two are not an endangerment on ethics/morality) we find ourselves fixated on the results and obsessive over whether one will bring success or failure. Therefore, the weight of all our choices rest completely on our shoulders. Not only is that a false approach to decision making, but it perpetuates a fear based foundation on which we live our lives. It’s no surprise we grow anxious. Our hearts palpitate over could’ves, would’ves and should’ves, yet simultaneously ache for that elusive peace which surpasses all understanding.
In my formative years, I was once taught that “a man will receive 3-5 great and life changing opportunities in his life. Don’t let it slip by, for once it’s gone, it’ll never come back again.” But we who serve an awesome and everlasting God can know that no such thing lies as the basis of our lives.
2 Corinthians 12-14
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
Paul’s actions in 2 Corinthians tell us something very important about opportunity that we have skewed in the name of “following” God’s will. Open doors do not necessarily mean, “go!”; likewise closed doors are not always God’s way of making you turn around. Although everything seemed to be pointing Paul towards Troas, the choice remained his at the end of the day. He admits that a door opened for him to show that the circumstances were all lining up correctly. Divine intervention, perhaps? Regardless, that does not convince Paul that God is commanding him to stay and go through with it. God does not control his decisions, however; Paul has free will to make that call. Do his choices weigh on how holy he is? Not necessarily. Of course, we should make God honoring decisions, but in our desperation to find the RIGHT path that God has for us, we lose sight on how sovereign our God is.
If we believe that life is a scattered jigsaw puzzle God has left for us to discover our meaning and our wholeness, then we have a wrong picture of our Heavenly Father. If we somehow believe that He sits around in anticipation watching us choose between wrong and right pieces, then every single decision we make ought to cause us anxiety and fear. But we know through scripture that God does not hope for us to live in such a way. He even teaches us not to worry about tomorrow [Matthew 6: 25-34]. At the end of the day, or rather, at the end of our life, God will not judge us on whether or not we made the right decision, but a faith filled one.
We can only make the best decisions we can with the knowledge we can. We are not omniscient or all knowing. We cannot know for sure what will happen as a result of our choices. But if we say in our hearts, I will honor God in my decision and praying for the wisdom to do so, He will work through our decisions not despite our choices. Paul helps to remind us that right choices are more or less irrelevant, because God’s will cannot be thwarted and because of Christ, it will come out in triumph no matter what we do.