Growing up in the church, I always heard that “God has a plan for my life.” And I was also taught that if I “stay in His will”, then I will be following his plan, and it will be so much better than if I didn’t “stay in his will”. Sure, my life will still be good because “God is watching over me”, but I’ll be missing out on unfathomably better things if I don’t make all the “right decisions”–if I immerse myself in prayer before doing anything–ANYTHING–and to always “wait on an answer” for every single thing I do.
Now is the time for a disclaimer: I’m not throwing all of this out the window. Rather, I wish to offer the other side of the balance–the one I had to learn on my own after I was only taught this single side. Those quotation marks aren’t sarcasm, they are some Christian-ese phrases that have stuck in my memory and driven me…sometimes to good things, and sometimes to bad. Prayer is good. God does have a plan. There are times when we should wait on an answer. But…this is only half of the story.
See, the problem here is this: What happens when I don’t make a “right decision”? What happens if I choose the “wrong” college or the “wrong” boyfriend or the “wrong” friends? If there’s always a “right” choice to make, there are infinitely more “wrong” choices to make; infinitely more chances to be worse off than I would be if I had chosen the “right” one.
It’s crippling. We look back on our past and convince ourselves that we didn’t make the “right” decision, and think ourselves into circles of “what-ifs” and then accidentally convince ourselves that we just can’t make any “right” decisions.
This, my friends, is black-and-white thinking. That everything in life fits into the categories of “right” and “wrong”. You’d think that such structure would promote understanding and help everything fall into its place. (Or maybe, only I would because I can be pretty anal.) But it actually only causes uncertainty and self-doubt, and you might even find yourself buried in a sea of “wrongs” that aren’t even really wrong.
See, the problem with a black-and-white thinking is that there are more things in this world that are shades of gray than completely black or completely white. And, get this: there’s more colors out there than black, white, and gray, too. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that God literally wouldn’t have made us to see colors (and shades of gray) other than black and white if we were not also meant to live them.
Take my college decision, for example. Here’s an excerpt from my journal at the time:
The most terrifying decisions are those which have no clear better choice; no “right answer”. It’s easy to choose something whose pros outweigh its cons. It’s even easy to choose to follow your dreams. In fact, that’s inspirational.
But now…the rest of my life is teetering at a precarious precipice. FSU or UM? I never thought I’d be so tortured. I thought I’d know. That it would come down to the money. That I would get in at one place, and not the other. That the decision would be made for me. But a giant weight of responsibility has been placed upon my shoulders now…
I was expecting God to “fling the door wide open” and to “slam shut the other one”. I weighed the pros and cons a million times, hoping that one would prevail, that one would seem more “right” than the other. I was terrified of taking responsibility for choosing the “wrong one”.
I prayed, oh so fervently. I prayed that God would show me the right one, that He’d tip my heart one way or the other, that I could find a justifiable reason for choosing one over the other. And all that I heard was…
Absolute, pure silence. No matter how much I prayed, I felt His presence and heard his silence. And slowly but surely…I realized what He was doing.
He was giving me a choice. Letting me exercise my free will. Giving me freedom. Because He promised that He would work EVERYTHING together to offer good things to me (Romans 8:28)–not just when I make the “right” decisions. And not just when I let Him make decisions for me.
Do I think I would have been worse off if I’d gone to Miami? Well, it’s a natural psychological phenomenon to think I would be, especially when things have gone so amazingly for me in Tallahassee. But I know, surely and truly, that God would have blessed me just the same if I’d chosen Miami. I just love it so much here that I don’t like to admit it sometimes.
But if I refused to admit it, I’d be refusing to admit the awesomeness of my God.
Because seriously, if He can take any one of my choices, with the (literally) infinite outcomes they could lead to, and then hand-pick the outcomes that lead to my growth and understanding–and then do that for each and every other one of His followers–He’s worth talking about. That kind of God is worth wondering about and understanding and following.
Your life is a blank canvas for the taking, not a connect-the-dots and paint-by-numbers and color-inside-the-lines kind of deal. And God realizes that.
And He loves it. And it’s beautiful.
So don’t be afraid of your choices anymore. If it’s not directly against the Bible or any personal convictions…go for it. Seize opportunities. Take responsibility. Move. Because He’s gonna take care of you–and that’s a promise.