While traveling for Epiphany:Visio a couple of years ago I found myself on a few flights during the worst cold season on the East Coast in years. As a result I had the privilege of flying through several storms. It was the best! ... said no one ever.
During one particularly gloomy, but calm, flight I watched as the plane rose up out of the clouds. Suddenly it was sunny and bright and the turbulence calmed. All the stress of flying by standby faded. The sun and smooth flying led me to calm the storm brewing inside me. I ended up drawing the following illustration during that flight.
The missed flights, the tense moments waiting to see if we'd make it on this flight, the weather delays and cancellations all swirled up inside me. They created an internal chaos that mimicked the weather outside. Then, when I took a moment to stop and breathe and notice the sun outside my window, it clicked: I got caught in my circumstances, but the reality of the sun shining down on the earth hadn't changed. The clouds made it difficult to see it's brightness or feel its warmth, but nonetheless it was still there as it had always been.
More and more I experience Jesus like this in my life. I get panicked or anxious; fear questions my choices or path -- but the reality of what God is doing in my life hasn't changed. God is still good; God is still present. God is still with me. And often it takes a few moments of space, calm, and deep breathing to remember these clouds too will pass.
It feels fair to say "I'm in it." I'm deep in the process of making what feel like monumental life choices -- the kind that "adults" make. While I feel capable in the pool of my current context, stepping into these life-altering choices feels like going from the kiddie pool to an olympic sized diving pool. It looks deep and scary and dark. It feels unknown because it is outside my realm of experience.
In this place I've been revisiting my experience in the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius, the author of the Exercises, has a lot to say about making decisions. He has process for how to compare two good alternatives; rules for when not to back out of a previously made good decision; questions to help you see your own internal process in the decision making; and most importantly, grace to remember God is still with you.
As I've been working through my decision, and reflecting back on these Ignatian principles, I ran across this little gem:
Don't change a good decision made in peace when the waves of fear or anxiety kick up.
What this implies is there is a good chance, even a good decision will evoke some concern, some caution, some doubt. And the Christian saying of, "Make the decision which leads to peace," is -- in this light -- slightly misleading, or only half true. As I'm learning in my own decision process how true it is that a decision made well at the beginning of the process is not bullet proof to distraction, persuasion, or worry.
What I'm learning as I recognize the places these things are surfacing in my own process is that the answer lies not in reacting to the fear, but to wait, to settle down internally, and to re-evaluate. Have I gained new information that would cause me to change my decision? Am I seeing that my initial decision was made in error? Has this turned into a "one-way" decision I can't undo later? If no, then I carry on, continually praying and seeking God's guidance, clarity, and movement of my heart towards his purposes for me and the world.
As I seek God through these questions I return to sensing more clearly which choice feels most like the "drop of water on a sponge," as Ignatius describes a good decision that draws us closer to God will feel calming, rather than like a drop of water on a rock, which describes a decision contrary to God's purposes for us.