I have always been terrible at making decisions. To help out, my Dad created what I’ll call the Flipping a Coin Technique. Each option would be given heads or tails. He would flip the coin in the air, and the moment I saw which side of the coin had fallen, I knew what I wanted. Seeing an option taken away removed all overthinking and overanalyzing, leaving nothing but that feeling in my gut that says, “I want this.”
But how do we trust our gut? I often feel torn between my feelings, my head, and my spirit–because those are all supposed to contradict one another, right?? When I have to make a choice, I play through the scenarios again and again in my head. If I marry this person, then we’ll probably live in a city where I will dream of farmland until he can’t stand my cooking and I tell him to eat his vegetables and he tells me to eat McDonalds, so I go outside to cool off but I get hit by a car and when he sees me in a hospital bed he promises he’ll move us to the country as long as I let him eat GMOs twice a week.
This kind of thinking never gets me anywhere. Instead, I create a tangled web for myself, going back and forth—and sideways and diagonal and upside down and in and out, over and under. It’s like trying to solve ten complex math problems at the same time without ever putting a pencil to paper, or trying to create a map to somewhere without knowing the destination.
I used to wonder how people who didn’t believe in God made big decisions. When you don’t trust in a god, you have to trust yourself. But that’s my problem: I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust that my desires align with God’s, as if I am so separated from God through sin that I can’t possibly want what He wants. Surely He wants me to do something that I don’t want to do, like work for Monsanto or move to Siberia and never see the sun again. I’m not sure what I learned as a child that made me think this. Maybe it’s because I’ve known people who were called to things I was terrified to even think about, or because God called His own Son to die on a cross. But, while God often does call us to uncomfortable things, they are always things He has equipped us and prepared us to do. I even believe that He gives us a desire to do them.
I have a big decision coming up. I recently decided that I want to go to grad school, and so far I have narrowed my options down to about eight schools. I have always believed that God helps us make decisions. He has helped me many times by closing doors I almost walked through. I may have slammed my head against the wood, but at least I didn’t fall into the pit on the other side. But right now it feels like I’m standing in a hallway with eight open doors, waiting for them to budge. They won’t start closing until I’ve applied and the schools accept or deny me, but even then I may be standing in front of three or four doorways with equal promise.
Soon, even weightier decisions will come up, like who I should marry and how many kids I should have and where I should live, etc. While these decisions require patience and prayer, I have so much self-doubt that I begin to wonder if I can make those decisions at all. But all self-doubt, I’ve found, comes from doubting the power of the Spirit within me. If a decision is not according to God’s will, then we have the Spirit to nudge us, to give us second thoughts, and to turn us in the right direction. But if my eyes are so focused on the decision itself, how will I be in tune with the Spirit? If I don’t know God, how can I know what He wants or desire what He desires? I hear this from friends all the time. “How do I know if it’s God or just me?”
Lately, my parents have been pushing me to make my own decisions, whether it is what schools I apply to or what color I paint my bedroom. I think this is part of growing up, and I think God may be teaching me this as well, because sometimes our choices can go either way, and God’s promise is that He will be with us whatever we decide. It has made me wonder…
What if God wants me to stop trusting that He will give me the answers and to start trusting that He has equipped me to make good choices?
What if God’s promise is not to be a road map but a travel companion?
Maybe I need to cut myself some slack and start believing that I don’t have the power to ruin what God is doing, especially if I am prayerfully following Him. Maybe I need to trust that the Spirit can work through my thoughts and feelings. I may not know God’s will, but I do know Him, and if I am in right-relationship with Him, then I don’t need to be afraid of taking the next step forward as long as I have peace in my spirit. I don’t need to obsess and overanalyze. All I can do is wait, pray, and rest in this promise:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6