Have you ever been faced with a decision so big you felt paralyzed to make it?
Several years ago, I was living in Colorado and experiencing one of these big decisions. Looking back, it wasn’t as a big of a decision as it felt at the time, but that’s not the point. The point is that, at the time, the decision felt so big that I couldn’t move. Physically or mentally. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t live until this decision was made. But I could not get around it. I kept running into it. Like a big stone wall. I couldn’t see through it, around it, over it or under it. It was just the decision.
Paralyzed by fear
But making the decision seemed an impossible task. Why? Because I was paralyzed by fear. The fear of making the wrong decision. What if the choice I made was the wrong one? What if I should have done something else? Or nothing at all? What if there were a different option altogether that I hadn’t thought of yet? What if I made a mistake?
This particular decision was about staying in Colorado or moving back to Texas. I’d only been in the Springs for a year. I’d only been working in the job that brought me to CO for a year. And yet, I felt a strange calling to go back home to Texas. Was it just homesickness? Or was it more? Was it God? Or was it me? I didn’t (necessarily) have a problem moving back to Texas if that’s what God wanted me to do, but how could I be sure it’s what He wanted? What if it was just that the “newness” of life on my own, in a new state and city, had worn off and I was now realizing I couldn’t (or didn’t want) to “cut it?”
And, most of all, what if what I chose took me outside of the will of God?
I wasn’t praying about this decision. I was pleading with God about it. Lord, what do I do? What do You want me to do?
So. Many. Questions.
And not one single answer.
I didn’t feel as if the Lord was answering my pleas. I was semi-convinced that He had turned the volume off on my prayers so He could no longer hear the whining, pleading cry of His precious, but slightly annoying, daughter. He had better things to do. More important things than to help me figure this out. He could see me, but He was choosing not to hear me.
It was a tough season personally. I didn’t know what to do so I wasn’t doing anything at all. And, all the while, a looming deadline kept approaching. My lease was coming up. If I were going to move, that would be the opportune time to do it. Renewing my lease was going to keep me in the Springs for at least another six months. Was that the best choice? Stay and then re-evaluate then?
At one point in time, I found myself in a phone conversation with a mentor and friend. She’s a wise woman who the Lord had placed in my life years before and allowed a mother-daughter type relationship to grow. She and her husband had actually helped me move to the Springs a year before.
As I was (literally) crying my heart out to her on the phone, she listened with grace and compassion and then asked me this question:
“Why does it have to be a right or wrong decision? Why can’t it be just a decision?”
Uh, come again? What did she mean? Aren’t all decisions a right or wrong decisions?
Well, maybe not. She went on to share with me something that has helped me feel less paralyzed when big decisions come around. Here’s a paraphrase of what she said:
Think of decision making as if God had a playground. He doesn’t care if you play on the monkey bars, the merry-go-round, in the sandbox or tag with your friends. It’s your decision. Just seek the Lord, stay within the boundaries of His playground and you’ll be fine.
If you’ve ever watched a parent and child on a real-life playground, you’ve seen this played out. Mom brings the kid to the playground, gives him or her some basic ground rules and then turns ’em loose. Every so often, that kiddo “checks in” with mom. Either by physically coming over or maybe just by popping a head up now and then from wherever he/she is to make sure mom’s still there. And, all the while, mom’s keeping an eye on her child. But, she’s not dictating every move nor is she directing the child where, with what or with whom to play next. Those decisions are purely left up to the child. Mom just doesn’t want the kid wandering off outside of the playground area.
I admit it took me a little bit to digest what my mentor was suggesting. If the Lord wasn’t giving me any direction, if He wasn’t nudging me in one way or the other, perhaps there wasn’t a right or wrong decision to make. Maybe it was just a decision.
That was one of the most freeing things for me to learn because it showed me that I didn’t have to be fearful or that the Lord had not turned a deaf ear toward me. It wasn’t that He was choosing not to listen, it was that He didn’t really care what decision I made. I’d been seeking Him and, therefore, I had the power to make my own decision without the fear of stepping outside of His will for my life. Those two things did not have to be mutually exclusive.
Since then, as decisions have come up, I’ve kept this in the back of my mind. I now find myself asking the Lord if this particular decision is another “playground” one. And I’ve become better at discerning whether He is nudging me one particular direction or if He’s content to let me go my own way. It’s not perfect and I will still find myself paralyzed at times, but if I can get back to the playground, I find that I can breathe again.