I went to see my pastor recently to chat about the various ministry opportunities at church. He gave me three very different options to consider. I had a pretty simple approach to making decisions. I thought about them, prayed about them, occasionally sought advice from a friend, and then I made them. No big deal, right?
A month earlier, my church did a series about decision making. It was a great series that caught my attention at the time, although I didn’t really apply the learning in a consistent manner. I did make one conscious decision, a tough one, using the information I had gained. Then, I promptly forgot what I had learned. It was like I had used the information up and moved on. I was modeling American consumerism in a whole new way.
There were 3 good options on the table to consider. One of those options was one that had cropped up last fall. I was asked to consider teaching the Intensive Bible Study class which is a two semester commitment. Now, whenever I’m asked something more than once, it gets my attention. After all, what if the Lord wanted me to do that very thing and I missed His call? (I bet you know where this is leading.)
So, I spent some time in prayer on this topic. Okay, let me clarify since I didn’t really spend that much time in prayer. It was more like “Lord, please show me what to do. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.”
Now, the Lord moves in strange and mysterious ways. I’ve heard that phrase for years and have personal experience with it. But, I’m always amazed at how He uses circumstances and people. Sometimes, His approach is simple and sometimes it’s complex. It seems to me that whatever approach He uses, there is always irony and most of the time, a hint of humor present.
In the week that I was ruminating over this decision, several things happened. First, my good friend and long time prayer partner from Colorado called me. She said that I’d been on her mind and suggested the Beth Moore study titled Living Beyond Yourself. I should mention that this same friend had pitched this study to me the previous summer and I blew it off. Secondly, I had to come up with a development plan at work that identified any areas that could be developed. Based on the role I played at work, there were two specific areas that I identified: Mentoring and Conflict Resolution. Thirdly, in personal introspection, I had come up with a list of needs that weren’t getting met. Those needs were for relationship, challenge and adventure. (I can sense your laughter bubbling up, but please don’t laugh yet. There is more to come.)
I decided that I should start on the Living Beyond Yourself bible study and proceeded to do just that. Meanwhile, I had some downtime at work and spent time reading several books on mentoring and conflict resolution. And, oddly enough, my church started a new series of messages titled “Life’s Tipping Points”. (Wasn’t that ironic?)
Now, I did admit to being an analyst deep down in my soul. I knew I could slice and dice with the best of them and thought of data as my good friend. So, in typical fashion, I started a spreadsheet intending to create a simplified version of the old pro and con list. Somehow that simple spreadsheet ended up containing categories to consider in making this decision. Most of these categories made sense, for example: How did these options meet my needs for relationship, challenge and adventure? How did these options provide practice in the areas of mentoring and conflict resolution?
There were no surprises until I got to the last two categories of the spreadsheet. During the series on decision making, I reluctantly learned that I had a habit of making decisions in favor of convenience and comfort. I avoided risk, even limited risk, had developed an unhealthy fear of failure and ran from anything resembling commitment. (Okay, you can start laughing now.)
The last two categories on the spreadsheet were to rate the anticipated fear factor and level of commitment. Of the three options, only the Intensive Bible Study option rated high for both fear and commitment. (Naturally!)
I don’t think I mentioned the two quotes that stood out from the Living Beyond Yourself study. “We must decide what we value most. Do we most want to be conformed (to the image of Christ), or do we want to be comforted?” And, “Do not be surprised when God continually forces you outside your comfort zone.” (You can stop laughing now.)
After a token resistance, I decided think in terms of a long term Father-daughter project.