Saturday, December 18, 2010

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions . . . and the Mythology of Good Choices

I'm on the threshold of making one of the biggest decisions I've ever made. That is to quit my job and open my own clinic. It has been a very complicated process over the past five years getting to this point. It is too complicated to discuss here, but I do want to share some thoughts once more about this cottage industry around Christian decision making.

First of all, if it isn't obvious, there's a lot at stake . . . mainly, total financial ruin. Right now is not a good time to go completely broke as I have 3 1/2 kids in college.

But on to my point.

You see, the last decision of this magnitude was quiting my job at Mayo Clinic, and coming to a place 2,000 miles away, where I wasn't really wanted. Over all, that decision has turned out well (despite all the warning signs that it would fail). I think all my kids and maybe even my wife would agree that moving here seven years ago was a positive thing. However, it was the decision before that one, which was a complete disaster. In that decision process, I quit my job, moved one hundred miles and built a house. The job was the job from hell (where the physicians I was working with were heavily involved with illegal billing practices) and the house building was a complete failure . . . could not have gone worse . . . unless one of us had been killed.

So this brings me back to this concept of how Christians can follow steps 1, 2, and 3 . . . and always end up in the "middle of God's will" where life is bliss. Or that's how the mythology goes. I know I've talked about this concept many times and from many directions, such as the Prince Charming piece.

Yesterday I was standing at my dream clinic site with a Realtor, contractor, interior designer friend and my wife. After everyone had left, it was just the contractor and me. He is a good friend. Really nice guy. He is an evangelical and a card carrying Promise Keepers man. As I discussed the risk involved, he asked me if I had "prayed about it."

"Sure have," I honestly said. I pray about it almost continuously. But then he added the line that is cliche. "Well then, if it is the right thing all the doors will open and if not, they won't."

If life could only be that easy! But it is not. Remember that decision, two decisions ago, which turned into a disaster? Well I certainly do remember it and remember it well. All the doors opened. I didn't have to force any open. I prayed about that decision until I was blue in the face (and continued praying about it for the subsequent decade as we had a 1/2 built house that we couldn't sell). I remember when I made that decision how my Christian friends lined up to tell me it was the right thing to do.

One of those friends, a pastor, was all thumbs up about it. Partially because it meant that I would be moving to his town and joining his church. He was the one who put me in touch with a pastor friend of his who had a contracting business on the side. It was a freaking nightmare. The contractor may have been a wonderful pastor, but he was a contracting idiot. He messed the house up so badly that it couldn't be sold. Then, he declared bankruptcy (after a relative of his, an employee of his company, ran off with the money) and I couldn't sue him. The real kicker, while we were living in a mess (the house was an unheated shed in the middle of the winter in norther Michigan) the pastor who told me that the decision was the right one and who set me up with the terrible contractor, now told me that the failure was all my fault because I had not trusted God correctly.

So, once again I stand at a crossroads. Yes, decisions making is a science, where you do put your ducks in a row, do your research and try to make the best decision that you can. But this mythology that if you pray about it and the doors open that it will be bliss is very, very wrong. This time around the doors are opening. I could easily make the case that this is clearly God's will . . . but many of us now know better. My summary is that life has real risks. There is no fairy tale where the happy ending always comes. It doesn't. But, we must be faithful to live with the consequences and not blame God for promises He never made.

The last reason this came to mind was a man I met at this week's prayer group. He too felt God had led him to start a business. But he has had incredible set backs. Two vital pieces of machinery for his business, which he bought new, and were top-of-the -line, are seriously defective. He was expressing so much frustration as he prayed. I could tell that he was in that same mental cul-de-sac that many of us have found ourselves in. "God, are you there? Didn't I do this right?" It is a shame. I approached him after the prayer meeting to tell him, basically, shit happens. It wasn't his fault and certainly wasn't God's fault. No-where in scriptures (unless you bend them to the breaking point) did God promise if you follow steps 1, 2 and 3 in your decision making the he would protect you from the laws of Murphy.


Justin said...

MJ, you wrote: ...we must be faithful to live with the consequences and not blame God for promises He never made.

This has got to be one of the most important things I have had to learn over my "decision-making" career. That, and its corollary: For the most part, God doesn't really give a flying rat about which way you go.

Learning this has made the process much easier, at least less guilt-ridden.

Like a Child said...

Count me in as another victim of fairy tale christianity. But now, as i try to figure out what christianity really is, the danger for me is not just thinking christianity is a fairy tale (i.e. A myth).

As an aside, following "god's will" for me has meant making some choices based on emotion rather than my more rational self...and now, as i abandon the idea that there is a choice that is god's will, i am unsettled. I have been passively waiting for job opportunities for too long, influence of fundamentalist need to be a stay at home mom.

Anyways. Good post..good thoughts...i wish you well.