Tag Archives: choice

Lord, What Do You Really Want Me to Do?

This past week I was wrestling with a choice between two paths. It was one of those matters that would significantly change the focus of my work and my family’s way of living. Either choice would have been good, but the difficulty was which path was God’s will.

Someone gave me wise counsel on the matter, and while our discussion was much more in depth, the question that seemed to sum up the matter, that question that stuck in my head was, “What is the more courageous thing to do?”

It reminds me of a scene from the movie Becket, about Thomas Becket and Henry II of England. After a dangerous dispute with the king, Becket retreats to a monastery for a time. While life there is not easy, Becket discerns in prayer which path is, for him, the more courageous:

Lord, what do you really want me to do?
To remain here a poor monk in simplicity of the spirit? Is it a path to bring me nearer to you, or is it too easy a way, perhaps even a luxury?
The path to holiness in this monastery is too effortless. I think it will be too easy to buy you like this, bargain price. It has pleased you to make me archbishop, and to set me like a solitary pawn face to face with the king on the chessboard. I think you mean me to defend your honor, peacefully if I can with argument and with compromise. And if I cannot, then with the full challenge of my office and the soaring force of what I know to be right. So I shall take up the mitre again, and the golden cope, and the great silver cross, and I shall go back and fight with the weapons it has pleased you to give me. For the rest, thy will be done.
It is impossible for us to correctly guess what God wants us to do in every choice in life, and even those that we think are most important may in fact be the least important in His plan for us.
However, we should still strive to do what we can best discern to be His will. Assessing what strengths and talents He has bestowed on us, or as Becket calls them “the weapons it has pleased you to give me.” Considering also the needs of those that share the time and place in which God has placed you, or whose needs have been made persistently and clearly to you so that you can meet them. Finally, recalling that He has called us to deny ourselves, reach beyond our comfort zones for the courageous thing to do; very often He answers our prayers of “Disturb us, Lord,” though in unexpected ways.
Once we have decided on a path, with prayer and consultation with whose whom you share your life, pray for the strength to persevere. Accept though all trials of your calling that His will be done, just as you have prayed that His will be known when you set out.
Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Deciding in Seven Breaths

 

One of the first sayings of the samurai that caught my attention was this one:

“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takandobu said, “If discrimination is long, it will spoil.” Lord Naoshige said, “When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly.

When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.” From the Hagakure

Decision making is not my strong suit. If you’ve been following my work for the past few years, you’ve probably seen me go back and forth on site designs a few times. Perhaps that is why a quote about making decisions in just seven breaths was appealing.

One of the burdens of free will is the ability to make choices. As humanity has developed more involved processes, more entertainment choices, and more opportunities the number of choices we make on a daily basis can be overwhelming.

Lingering too long on a decision leads to a state called “analysis paralysis” – the inability to act due to an inability to make a decision. Such as state can complicate a small issue, and turn it into a big issue; if you are afraid of making a mistake, often not acting is an even bigger mistake.

Naoshige’s counsel on decision making was explained a bit further elsewhere in the Hagakure, the book of the samurai:

Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.’ …Among one’s affairs there should not be more than two or three matters of what one would call great concern. If these are deliberated upon during ordinary times, they can be understood.
Thinking about things previously and then handling them lightly when the time comes is what this is all about. To face and event and solve it lightly is difficult if you are not resolved beforehand, and there will always be uncertainty in hitting your mark. However, if the foundation is laid previously, you can think of the saying, ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly,’ as your own basis for action.”

Many of our little decisions – what movie to see, what to eat for breakfast, are pretty insignificant. The big questions of our lives – what job to take, should I move or stay put, who to marry – these should be based first and foremost on principles we ponder every day.

As Christians, that means putting God and His will first. Considering what kind of company we keep, what kind of life He wants us to live, and what things are contrary to living our life to best serve God and our neighbor should make big decisions easier. When we forget those principles, when we doubt His plan for our lives, we get mired in indecision for those big things.

We too should be able to make decisions within the space of seven breaths. However, that requires being resolved ahead of time to follow a certain path.

Unfortunately, following God’s will has little to do with the singular choice of what to eat for a particular meal. For decisions so small, it is best not to waste time, and to remind yourself that the impact of such a choice is minimal.

Reflect every day, and pray for knowledge of God’s will for you. On that foundation of faith, you can make your decisions as quickly as a samurai.

Photo courtesy Anne-Lise Heinrichs on Flickr.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.