Decision making is a matter fraught with complexity. Not the simple everyday ones of course, but the others which have both long and short-term ramifications. My father, God Rest his Soul, made decisions steeped in security, safety and the ability to keep his life in control. His reference points were simple, the need for a roof over the families head, a regular job, and not going to bed hungry at night; all of these informed what he decided. His upbringing in a poverty-stricken, rural Ireland made him very risk adverse. He moved to England for work, and like many from Ireland, never returned to his birth home for anything more than a visit. So, when other opportunities came his way, for promotion, immigration to Australia or Canada, and setting up a business with someone, he politely declined.
I do not think he ever regretted those decisions, but he also made it clear to me, even as a young boy, that he had other opportunities but declined to stay in a “safe place.” For me, as with many others viewing the wisdom of their parents, I rebelled. In fact, a guideline for me was “if my father would say no to this, then I should do it.” My father taught, indirectly perhaps, that risk could and should be embraced.
My own decision-making has been more aggressive; some might even consider bordering reckless. However, once you embark on a life of taking some risk, and gaining some reward for it, then a combination of the excitement and a good outcome causes confidence to build. Examples of this in my own life was proposing marriage to a girl in South Africa after only being in her presence for 21 days. Moving from London, England to rural Alabama for a new life in 1984. Providing a home to a teenager in need during my kid’s high school years. Becoming a downhill ski instructor when I have suffered from a fear of heights for most of my life. Starting my own business in 1994 with no income and little in the bank. Leaving a business career for full-time ministry !
I note these not because they say anything particular about myself, but rather the decision-making process we all go through. For the most part, much of what I accomplished in my early years would now be considered impossible to my more mature and wise mind. I did just make some decisions because they seemed the “right thing to do” and once the path was chosen, we made the best of it we could. In fact most of the best things which have happened to our family have been viewed as risky to others around us.
In reflecting on my most recent steps in my journey, I can note two things. One, I have lived a life embracing decisions, even when they did not work out so well. Secondly, God has been with me all the way. Even in my poorer decisions God has held fast and helped me recover from those decisions which were selfish or brimmed with the cup of success which often breeds arrogance and self-aggrandizement.
Looking back can help us look forward, but it can also be an unhelpful process, reinforcing regret and focusing on our failings and failures.
At times like this, it is important to note all God wants is for us to be close to Him. That is it. So all these things of the world are not helpful unless they move us towards this goal.
This is now my most important reminder to self.
Anatomy of a Decision
Sitting out there like a gleaming diamond,
Or a black patch to be worn for many years,
The decision looms large,
Its repercussions hidden from view,
Unlike the supporters on either side,
Divisive placards in hand,
Accompanied by alternating jeers and boos of those on the finish line.
Only one can really guide the right path,
One built with love.