“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantine and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”― Sylvia Plath
Last September I had a pretty big decision to make about where I was going to accept a job. I called up the people who knew me best to get their insight, asked my father of confession for his wisdom and spoke to people working in the same field for their perspective.
Whether it’s deciding over relationships, colleges, schools or jobs, sometimes we might find ourselves with two seemingly great choices, and so we find ourselves in a dilemma. Each choice will come at a cost; each choice will have positives and negatives, and ultimately no choice will be perfect.
I’ve never been a fan of pros and cons lists – I find that life can’t be categorised that easily. However, a friend gave me advice that helped. I was told to assign a value to each point under my two options. When I started writing the values I held, I started to see that while both choices were in line with the vision I had for my life, there were some values that were more significant than others. And while one option had way more values than the other, the other which only had a couple were much more fundamental to me.
A few of the things I’ve learned this season…
“We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). In the midst of his crisis, King Jehoshaphat acted by praising God. We also in the midst of our confusion and turmoil over decisions, need to learn the art laying our anxieties and restless thoughts down, being still and opening our heart in worship. The voice of the Holy Spirit can be so gentle that it’s only when we spend time in his presence that we can discern His Voice from all the noise.
Pray and learn from whatever happens on the other side. No matter what you choose, there will be struggle, and there will be trials for we know “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Sometimes those are a result of our choices, but in the end, they will be used by God to sanctify us and purify us. Living with our eyes on eternity is important in those seasons to understand that nothing is outside of His never-ending and unfailing love and mercy. There is no such thing as Plan B or Z with Christ. He will use all for our deification; it might take us longer on certain paths but even then, all we need to do is repent, and we are restored.
There’s a principle in radiology that says even if you find the fracture on an x-ray you should keep looking for other signs because you don’t want to be blindsided. Bring your decision before the Lord in prayer and meditation but challenge yourself to be curious and look deeper into your intentions, motivations and reasons for each choice. Give yourself time, patience and space and trust that the Holy Spirit will examine you, try you and reveal what is in depths of your heart.
Sometimes God’s will is clear and other times, most times, God allows us the freedom to choose and become whoever we want, though He may certainly have a direction for you. Submission is hard as we deny our self that we may be dedicated to Another. The hardest part in all of this is asking God “Who do you want me to be?” I think of Mary, called to be Mother of God; Abraham called to be Father of Nations and the disciples called to be Fishers of Men. God revealed to them who they were in His eyes and with that promise He gave them the strength and grace to become. Sometimes we don’t know how to choose because we don’t know who God is asking us to be. That may not be a question that gets answered overnight, it needs silence and self-awareness and time alone with Him. Sometimes it’s a process – it takes making one choice faithfully, and waiting faithfully and then making another and waiting to see what is revealed. But it’s a question we all desperately need the answer to – more than what we do God wants us to know who we are. It is only in knowing that, can we then make the decisions about what we do, how we spend our time, money and emotions. Because where we invest our heart, there we invest our life.
What if there is no such thing as the perfect choice? Because choosing means we can’t have everything. Because we don’t know how things will change and how those things that change will change us. Because we don’t know who we will be or what we will need in the future? Because we can sit here and play “what if the the grass is greener over there?” all day and it won’t bring us any closer to an answer – only further from being satisfied. And what if none of that matters because the point is to grow and seek His kingdom regardless of our choices?
So trust yourself. Most of our choices are not made in isolation. Where we are now and the choices we are making today is a culmination of all the choices and experiences in the past that have led up to this point. Trust that the God who has knit you from birth, has been guiding you and shaping you like clay can lead you today in this choice. Sometimes it’s fear of not having the perfect picture of our future figured out that holds us back.
A year later I’m fighting to find peace in the unknown road I’m on, but I want to continue to fight and continue to hope in Him because when I put the pieces in front of me, they don’t fit. Before me lays the back of a colourful tapestry and I have little idea what the canvas is going to look like. There are some dark threads from the past and some strange shapes from the present. But if I let Him just take all the colours, threads and pieces, I don’t have to sit and stare at them. The root of every untrusting feeling is the fear that He is not in fact good and that His love will end, especially when I feel I have no clue or answers about what to do. But if I forfeit my desire to know every outcome, if I forfeit the need to have physical evidence or feeling as evidence, then I will trust in His Word that He is with me, and that He is weaving stars and gold from what looks like odd patterns to me. And doesn’t that make all the difference?
C.S. Lewis — ‘I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?’
One choice we can always make, even in the midst of painful uncertainty, the simplest place to start is with this: “Love the Lord your God … and love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater…” You will always be where you need to be as long as Love is your aim.