Maybe it’s the schedule full of festivities, the time spent with friends and family you don’t see that often, or the looming end of the calendar year. Maybe it’s just that everything is cold and dark outside so we spend more time sitting around and… thinking. But something about the season makes us look around and take stock. Make lists. Make priorities.
Maybe even make a change.
A friend asked me for advice the other day. He has an incredible opportunity to do something BIG. Important, once in a lifetime kind of work with the potential to impact a lot of lives in a good way. But it means a lot less security than his current situation, which is a known quantity; it means walking away from the fruits of decades of hard work. It’s a really tough call, all around.
Honestly I was a little floored that he asked me because 1) this is a person older and wiser than me, and also 2) have you met me?? I’m a chronic hot mess, and I don’t pretend otherwise. [Case in point: when we moved, it took me 8 months and 5 drips to the DMV to get a Kentucky driver’s license, true story].
Still, in years of pastoral ministry and walking with people through life transitions, you can’t help but glean some insights about the nature of relationships, vocation, human growth and discernment. Not to mention, as someone who’s moved around a lot, I have had more than my share of moments with one-foot-across-to-whatever and the other still firmly planted in this and now.
Just know that I share this wisdom, such as it is, with the same caveat I gave my friend: it’s just me talking. None of this is foolproof for every person and every situation; and Lord knows, there are impossible decisions to be made in life when there is just no good answer. This might not be helpful in that setting. But for my friend– who was choosing between a current situation that is good, and a future prospect that could also be good– I hope there is something worthwhile here. Even if the choice you have to make is a painful one, I hope these are some meaningful ways forward.
SO with all those disclaimers, here are some ways to face a crossroads/threshold kind of situation and feel empowered to get unstuck, and make the right call for you, for now.
- Gut Check. Always start there, because if your gut gives you an answer, you can probably skip all the other things on this list. Your gut is almost never wrong.
- Clear the Clutter. Maybe that means cleaning up your actual workspace and living space so you can see out (for me, that is almost always the case). Maybe it means getting someplace quiet for a day, or clearing a few days of your calendar. Whatever the particulars, it is hard to think clearly when you are surrounded by stuff, noise and constant demands. Give yourself some space.
- Worst Case Scenario. I am way too good at this particular part, because I have a wild imagination and some wicked tendencies towards anxiety. But if you are a person who can worry in moderation, this might help. Spin out a few worst case scenarios for each choice; it might be something like “detrimental to my health” or “would cause a strain on my marriage;” or maybe “I could lose my retirement” or “there is a possibility I get eaten by a pack of wolves.” Once you have spun yourself a tale of doom for each scenario ask yourself– which of these worst possible things could I most live with? [Hint: probably not the wolves] Of course, your worst case will probably (hopefully) not actually happen, so enjoy even more time thinking about the
- Big Picture Outcomes. Picture yourself down the road a few years, following each potential choice. Of course, the unknowns here are the problem to begin with. But which of those possible futures is the life you most envision for yourself? Take yourself out of the moment– in which the weight of the decision can feel crippling– and think of this thing in the context of your whole life. Geography, relationships, health, purpose, values, etc. Taking the choice out of this one moment is actually a LOT less pressure, and it also helps you think in terms of your primary goals and desires. Which of these options is most likely to get you there?
- Pray. Prayer is not everything. But it’s not nothing. Sometimes the stillness, the intention, and the connection with something holy will get your clarity without all the mental gymnastics. And finally, even if the way ahead remains unclear, try and find some
- Peace even in uncertainty. Because –and here is the best news –in most cases, there is no ONE right way. There are multiple ways forward, and an infinite number of possibilities behind every door. Some will be amazing, some will suck. But it’s not always within your control. If you are a person of faith, at some point, you take a step and trust that God is with you; guiding you, making the best of your gifts and your time, and maybe even cutting you a break every now and then if you screw up. We forget this factor sometimes, but it’s called “Grace.” And it’s amazing.
When you get right down to it, this decision could change your life. But remember that your life is about more than this one thing, however huge it may feel; and God’s will for your life is not a zero-sum game. We are here for endless growth, opportunities, and seasons that each bring their own gifts. Sometimes, it’s good to stay planted; and sometimes, you have to step across into something new, just to see what’s over there.
What’s my friend going to do? Don’t know yet. But I’m pretty sure it will be good.