Two-Step Decision Making

Raise your hand if you just love making decisions.  Yeah, don’t worry, me neither. I abhor making decisions.  If you gave me 24 hours to make a decision, I would take every single moment and still not be confident in my decision.  I’m trying to make progress in this area.  I think I have, but it’s still a struggle.  I’d love to share some ideas that have helped me with this task, in the hopes that maybe they will help you too.  Also, let’s be honest, in writing them out, perhaps it will become clearer to me.  I don’t know.  I’ll decide later…

The Logical Approach

So, first, let’s talk about a couple methods out there for decision making.  A few tried and true methods; or ones I’ve tried and blew.  The place I always start out: The Pros and Cons List.  You know this one.  You’ve been making pros and cons lists since grade school.  It’s classic.  It’s how you think through things.  It’s logical.  It works every time.  Trust me on this.  All you have to do is:
  1. Fold a piece of paper in half vertically.
  2. Write out the decision you’re trying to make across the top (i.e. Should I buy I new car?).
  3. Label one side pros and the other side cons.
  4. Now think of all the reasons you should act and write them on the “Pros” side of the paper (i.e. My car is 10 years old; the warranty expired; it’s little; it doesn’t have Bluetooth).
  5. On the “Cons” side, write all the reasons you should not act (i.e. It has great gas mileage; I love the color; I love the way it drives; it hasn’t required excessive maintenance; it’s paid off).
  6. Compare the pros to the cons.
  7. If your pros outweigh the cons, act; if the cons outweigh the pros don’t.
In the above example, I would not be buying a new car.  And, though inconsequential to you, it’s true.  I won’t.  We love our little car and the fact that it is paid off is a HUGE perk (a truth to which any of you who drive paid-off cars may attest).  But, the problem with this process is each pro and each con carries a different weight.  For example, the fact that my car is paid off weighs higher in my decision-making process than its Bluetoothlessness.  So, this particular con does not cancel out the pro.

In response to this problem, some people suggest you attach a numeric value to each item on your pro/con list.  So, age of car might weigh in at an 8 in importance; while color weighs in at a 2.  After assigning values, you add up the assigned values and the side with the greater value wins.

Clear.  Straightforward.  Logical.  

The problem: making the right decision, is not always clear, straightforward or logical.  We’re not factoring in morals, its effect on other people, what the future has in store for us.  For instance, after making our pro/con list and deciding we clearly need to keep our car, we get in an accident.  Not a fender bender.  A full-on, car-crushing, engine-dropping, airbag-deploying, tow truck-paging accident. Burn that list.  We’re getting a new car.  (Knocks on wood.  I really hope that doesn’t happen.)

The Intuitive Approach

Logical approach failing, you turn to an emotional approach.  Now, we rely on what feels right.  We follow our intuition.  We hold out a piece of food.  Examine it.  Think about it.  Ask ourselves, “Do I really want to eat this donut?”  Then, we listen to our internal voice.  It screams, “NO!”  We drop it like a hot potato and eat a banana instead.

With this approach - whatever your instinct tells you, whatever you feel in your heart, what your soul whispers - this is your action, your path.  You’re getting in touch with your spirit.  You’re listening to your inner you.  You’re embracing who you really are, and constantly saying, “Yes,” to you.

Balance.  Control.  Flow.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  To be in balance with who you really are.  To me, the problem with this approach is, my inner spirit wouldn’t scream, “NO!” to that donut.  It would scream, “YEEEESSSSS!”  I would be dropping the banana and gorging on the donut.  That’s truth for you there.

The other problem with this is, what if the Mr.’s intuition and my intuition are off?  I’m not saying we’re wrapped up in every single decision the other makes, but for the big-to-life decisions we are.  We totally are.  So, what if my intuition says, “You need a new car.” And his says, “No.  You don’t need a car.”  This, my friends, is cause for all-out war.  Repetitive war.  Clashing of the souls war.  Deeply, and unnecessarily, hurt wars.

The Biblical Approach

I’ve tried both these decision-making processes.  Been a believer in both of them.  I’ve also been let down by both of them.  So, what’s the answer then?  Why did they fail?

Recently, I’ve been trying to find more answers in scripture.  I’ve been digging deep into God’s word and trying to live by it.  I’ve been trying to let it lead me.  Let me tell you there’s danger in this method too, if you’re not doing it right.  I could find you a scripture reference to persuade you into any decision you want to make, just as quickly as I could to dissuade you.  There are so many contradictory verses in the Bible.  But the key is not just in knowing the Bible; it’s in knowing the Author.  Friends, when you know the Author, reading the Living Word is a whole new experience.  Without Him, it’s just a book; with Him it’s everything.

So, with the Author as my guide, decision-making takes on a whole new process.  It really looks more like this:
  1. A problem arises.
  2. I try to solve it on my own.
  3. I make a decision (Using one of the above methods, or based on how my decision will make other people feel.  If I’m being honest, it’s usually the second that’s the motivating factor.)
  4. Most of the time, things work out.
  5. Life marches on.
  6. I end up feeling hollow, like I missed something.  Or like I’m on the wrong path.
  7. I wrestle with it for a while.  
  8. I live in turmoil.  This was my choice, after all, I have to stick with it.
  9. Then, I turn to Jesus.  
  10. My perspective shifts.
  11. With Him as my guide, I start making new decisions.  Decisions based on His goals, His purposes, His design for me.
I know I still don’t make decisions correctly.  But I feel like I’m making progress.  Even slow progress is still progress.
The journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step.  (Chinese Proverb) 
This is the process I want to implement:
  1. In all thy ways acknowledge Him;
  2. And He will direct thy paths.  (Proverbs 3:6)
What does that even mean?  How is that a process?  It sounds passive.  It sounds like you aren’t even doing anything.  No wonder you’re not going anywhere!

You’re right.  That’s the point.  I’M not doing anything.  I’m surrendering.  It’s called faith.
So, what does it look like?  In my actual life, what effect do I want this verse to have on decision-making?  I want this.  I want to:

Acknowledge Him in all my ways.

To me, that means learning to invite Him in on everything I do, think, and feel.  If I believe that I’m never really alone, that God is always with me, then the next step is acknowledging He’s with me.  Otherwise, I’m shutting Him out.  It’s as simple as turning a “My,” into an “Our,” an “I,” into a, “We.”  Acknowledging He is always with us and inviting Him into everything we are doing.

The book, “The Shack,” by Wm. Paul Young, describes our life with God more as the wind in a mobile then a hierarchy.  The items in the mobile are all the parts of our life: family, friends, our job, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, etc. and God wants to be the wind that moves unseen in and between all these things, moving them and being a part of them (209).  He is.  That’s God, right?  The I am.  He is.  It’s simple, yet we make it so complex.  We make it into a list of rights and wrongs.  Important, not important.  Godly, ungodly.  But He wants us.  All of us.  He wants to be with us.  So, invite Him in.  To everything you do.  Acknowledge that He is the wind in the air amongst your mobile of life and allow Him to move amongst all the parts of your life.  Not just during devotionals, church, or prayer time.  But all of it.  Yes, even the parts you don’t think He’d approve of.  He’s already there, and all He’s asking is that you acknowledge He’s with you.  Always.

Honor that He directs my path. 

He does it whether we want Him to or not.  You know the saying, man plans, God laughs.  I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this to be true, but I sure have.  Recently, I woke up one morning and said to myself, “Today is going to be a fantastic day.  You will stay positive.  You will feel embraced by God’s love.  Nothing is going to stand in your way today.”  It lasted until breakfast, my friends, breakfast.  To me, it felt like God heard me, rubbed his hands together, and said, “Oh really?  Let’s see if you can handle this.” Enter lightning bolt targeted directly to the Mrs.’ heart taking form in words from my nephew.

He was leaving that day, going back to his mom’s house for the following week.   Which, always a hard morning anyway, became especially hard when a misunderstanding occurred.  He wanted Cuties for his snack.  We had gone to the store the previous night to buy Cuties, but also blackberries.  Remembering the blackberries, he asked for them in a second lunchbox.  I packed them in the second lunchbox, thinking they would make for a perfect snack, and left the Cuties in the pantry.  All was well...until we got to the schoolyard.   Suddenly he asks, “Aunt E., you packed me Cuties, right?” Lightning bolt transforms into thundercloud.

Carefully controlling the frustration in my voice (I will remain positive!), “No.  I didn’t.  I packed blackberries.”  Tears followed.  Guilt ensued.  Happiness fled.

We’re not in control.  No matter how much we want to think we are, we cannot control everything.  There are many more things outside our sphere of control than inside of it.  Joy comes in understanding that.  Joy comes in accepting that.  Joy comes in honoring the fact that he directs my path.

I could fight against it, and I have: “How could YOU possibly know what’s best for me?” “I’m the one living my life, not you.” “It’s my family.”  “My career.”  “How could You possibly know what’s best?”

But it doesn’t do me any good.  It leads me down dark and rocky terrain.   Leading to pain.  Confusion.  And honestly, at least in my case, hides me from me.  I spent so much time being the “Me” I thought I was supposed to be, that I lost myself along the way.  And honestly, it’s in surrender I find myself again.  In a God that loves me and as I learn more about Him, surrender more to Him, acknowledge Him more in my day-to-day, I see me more.  And I’m coming to understand “Me” more because we’re connected.  He moves in and around every part of my life, making all the parts move in rhythm to His love.

So, how does this help make decisions?
  1. I acknowledge Him.  Great.  Okay God!  You’re there.  You’re with me.  You’ll never leave me.  I know it.  I feel it. 
  2. You’re directing my paths.  I believe it.  I can rest in it.  I know that whatever decision I make, you’ll still be with me.  You’ll still be directing my paths.  You will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 3:16) because I’m pursuing you (Hebrews 11:6).  
Notice how I said, “whatever decision I make.”  I believe God still wants us to make our own decisions.  Some may not agree.  I’ve heard advice before that suggests you shouldn’t move unless God tells you to.  You should pray on it, and when you clearly hear God’s voice, then you should move.  Folks, if I did this, I would never get out of bed in the morning.  I would still be laying there asking Him, “Um, excuse me, kind Sir, but would you mind terribly if I got out of bed now?”  Plus, to me, for me, this is just not how the God I know operates.  He wants us to have free will: His gift to us.  The only way love exists.  He wants us to make our own choices.

So, instead of lying in my bed, waiting for God to tell me to move, this is how I see it: I’m in a maze.  A maze of life.  And I’m working my way through it trying to get to Jesus.  In this maze, many obstacles arise.  These obstacles represent decisions.  The path leads to the right, to the left, ahead, behind, each representing a different choice.  So, I make a choice.  (Sometimes acknowledging God first, and sometimes honoring that He directs my path.  But, if I’m going to be honest, right now I conscientiously only do that when it’s a big, rest of my life decision.  I want to get where I’m doing it for everything, but right now, I just simply don’t.)

Now, because I’m living in God’s word.  Because I’m in pursuit of Him.  Because He lives in me.  I walk forward in confidence, knowing:

He is with me always.

No matter what choice I make.  He loves me and will never forsake me.  Even if He knows my choice is leading to a dangerous end.  He gave me free will, and He will meet me at the end with grace when I hit that consequence.

He is directing my path still.

This is the part that is harder to understand.  What does that mean?  If He’s directing your path, then nothing bad should ever happen to you because He’s leading you.  Your choice will always be the right one.  It will always lead to love.  It will always lead you closer to him.  No.  It won’t.  Even if you’re pursuing Jesus.  Even if you do acknowledge Him in everything you do, God directing your path does not mean you will never experience pain or heartache.  No.  Free will.  Remember?  That means He’s not telling you what to do.  He’s not your guide.  He’s the man with the blueprint, watching you work your way through the maze of life.

My walls are continually before Him.

“Your walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:16) To me, this verse means He is constantly looking at the blueprint of the maze that is your life.  He sees where you need to be and knows the path you need to take to get there.  So, when you hit an obstacle, and choose the wrong path, He adjusts the blueprint according to the path you chose to direct you back to the correct path.  If you’ve been on the wrong path before you know what I mean.  You’ve felt it.  You’re fighting against life.  You’re fighting against you.  You’re fighting against everything.  You’re out of balance.  You’re not at peace.  But when you resume the right path, you know it.  Even if things are chaotic around you, you have peace in your soul.

This image is what helps me make decisions.  The comfort of knowing my Heavenly Father continually has my walls before Him.  He’s watching over me as I work through this maze called life and directing the paths of the blueprint to direct me past the finish line and into His loving arms.

I can rest in that.

I can rest knowing He’s in control.

He knows what’s best for me.

He directs my path, so I know I’ll end in His loving arms.

Decisions just got a whole lot easier.  Two steps:
1) Acknowledge Him in all my ways.
2) And He will direct my path.

I give you control.

It is a leap of faith - giving control to someone else.  Letting everything that matters to you rest in their hands.  But when this someone else is the Creator of the Universe - the one who knows every intricate detail of my life from beginning to end - I’m comfortable leaving it in His hands.

With Love and Prayers from the Kitchen,
Offering Samplings of Life by a Husband and Wife

Because I know God is in control.

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  1. Bible Hub
  2. Young, William Paul. The Shack. Windblown Media. 2007


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