Thursday, April 15, 2010

the anatomy of decision-making.


A decision has been made.

We’re not quite ready to share it yet; there are loose ends to tie and details to sort, but know this: We are happy.

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Prior to getting married, Jordan and I had a similar choice to make: Tallahassee or Macon. That decision-making process was all kinds of painful; more so, I think, than this one. Because of Jordan’s job, we were forced to discuss the decision long-distance (not our best form of communication). He had a significant scholarship to Mercer that he didn’t want to turn down, and I had a job I felt I needed in order to be the bread winner for our soon-to-be family.

The decision we made nearly two years ago wasn’t an easy one, and I’m sure there were times Jordan doubted giving up that scholarship and moving to a place that was different from where he’d lived before. We both know now, though, that God has used us here, really in more ways than I could begin to count.

That is the comfort that we feel now, knowing a decision has been made and that God will do what God always does and make our mess beautiful.

I’ve been chronicling most of our journey here, and I feel it’s necessary that I end it today. Because a decision has been made, and we are ready to press on, to focus on doing what must be done. We don’t want regrets or doubts, and so — thankfully — it’s time to close this chapter. I want to do our little story justice, though, and I want to provide encouragement to others who might be facing their own tough decisions.

So, without further ado, I present to you the anatomy of making a decision.

Step 1: Discuss options. I applied to five graduate programs; Jordan applied to the same (or more) clerkships. Our goal was to move somewhere “fun and exciting,” maybe D.C., maybe Boston, maybe New York or Chicago. Then results came pouring in, and soon we knew: For whatever reason, our options would need to be much more practical than we first thought. After weeks of hoping for something “more,” we had three viable choices, choices very different from our first wishes: Montgomery/Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee, or Athens.

Step 2: Accept options. This was a tough step. For a while, I think Jordan and I both didn’t want to admit that our original idea of a two-year adventure wasn’t going to come true. We didn’t want to admit rejection; we weren’t ready to accept the practical. But sometimes, that’s just what you have to do. Accept the practical, because sometimes, the practical can be an adventure in its own right.

Step 3: Pray, pray, and pray some more. Too often we think of prayer as a last resort, like it’s the only thing we can do after we’ve exhausted other possibilities. Instead, prayer is powerful, the best possibility when faced with looming decisions and big burdens. So that’s what we did. We prayed. We told everyone we knew loved us to pray. We went forward at church one Sunday to ask for prayers. (This was HARD.) I prayed in the car, prayed in the shower. We prayed together; we prayed separately. I prayed with joy when I heard news of acceptance; I prayed with tears after moments of rejection and frustration. There were times, too, when I didn’t feel like praying. Just this week I admitted to Jordan that I was tired of praying, that I hoped God was hearing my silences too, because I wanted to pray. I was still worried, still concerned, still hoping for His intercession. But it was like my prayers had dried up. I think, though, that God still heard, because I have peace, and I know that doesn’t come from me.

Step 4: Be patient. At times, it felt like we were being pushed to make a decision, a decision we weren’t quite ready to make. Guess what? Every time we asked for some more time, it was given to us. We didn’t want to rush into anything, especially without knowing all of facts, all of the major players in the game. It paid to slow down, take deep breaths, and make the decision in our own timeframe — even when others were pressuring us for answers.

Step 4: Do something. I read somewhere — and I firmly believe it is true — that sometimes, God just leaves it up to us. In 2007, I was living with Jordan’s parents in Birmingham and attending a Bible study at Dawson church. To this day, I look fondly on that study, because it was one that absolutely changed my life. The book we discussed was all about finding God’s will for our lives, all about what God’s will even means. And I learned (and this is big): Sometimes, God doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact — and I may step on some toes here — sometimes, God doesn’t have a preference as to what we do. As long as we’re doing it for Him. God loves us, and He cares that we do things in our lives that bring glory to Him and joy to us. But I’m not sure He has a preference as to what we do. He reminds me of my dad in that way. My dad will always be proud of what I do —  whether it's teaching, running my own business, or attending grad school — as long as I'm doing something that makes me happy and brings glory to God.

Jordan and I knew that all three practical options (Montgomery/Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee, and Athens) aligned with God’s will. Meaning: none of them called us to disobedience to Him; none of them was contrary to His purpose for us as His children. So we were free to make the decision ourselves. This was perhaps the hardest truth to swallow: That God might not speak to us from the sky and tell us exactly where to move. That we were going to have to do some leaping of our own accord.

Step 5: Count the cost. In November 2008, I, in a sense, gave up my rights. This was hard, but it would have been harder if I had married someone who didn’t see me as a unique individual created in the image of my Father. Because Jordan knew and cared for me and my dreams, I could trust that being selfless would have its reward. Instead of functioning as individuals, Jordan and I now function as a team. The decisions we make are made together, with both of our interests at heart. He knew graduate school was important to me; I knew finding a job was important to him. We wanted to be able to choose something that would be good for the both of us. We knew there would be consequences — positive and negative — to making this decision for two instead of for one.

Step 6: Don’t look back. Growing up, I attended a Christian school where chapel was held once a week. I’ve got some funny memories from those days, but one particular service sticks out in my mind. The pastor giving the lesson spoke to us about Lot’s wife. Honestly, I remember almost nothing about that talk, except he repeated over and over again: “Remember Lot’s wife.” And so I’ve remembered. In context of the story, perhaps we’re being taught to not look back toward what our lives were before Christ, to not turn back to the evil things we’ve left behind. But I kind of think of it this way: God wants us looking forward. C.S. Lewis touches on this in his book, The Screwtape Letters:

"The humans live in time but our Enemy [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure."

Now that a decision has been made, Jordan and I have agreed to face forward. We’re not going to look back, not going to wonder “what might have been.” That’s what Satan wants us to do. It’s when he does some of his best work. Instead, we’re going to focus on the here and now of our decision. It’s time to be about our Father’s business.

Step 7: Ignore the naysayers. And there will be naysayers. There will be people who think we are crazy, who will say mean things, or who just won’t understand. That’s okay. Jordan and I made the decision for us. We both know exactly why this was the choice we made, and we’ll happily explain to those who are confused by our actions. This decision was made for us, for the betterment of our marriage. I firmly believe that.

Step 8: Notice the blessings. God will bless this decision. Because we earnestly sought His face, He will reward. The blessings will abound, and our tendency will be to take them for granted. I don’t want to do that. I want my eyes to be opened to the blessings He has in store for us in this next chapter in our story.

6 comments:

jenna kristine said...

Thank you for so perfectly dissecting decision making's anatomy for us. I cannot wait to hear the details of what the future holds for you and Jordan! I am certain that wherever your path may lead, your journey will tell an amazing story.
Love you!

Anonymous said...

Ha, the detective in me has it narrowed down to 2 choices. We shall see. Also, YES that peace that passes all understanding is powerful and no joke!

Jordan Jones said...

Well written. I especially like that C.S. Lewis reference (that passage has changed the way I look at my life!)

Lindsey said...

Annie, I don't know why, but this made me start crying. Not a sad cry, but a good, filled-with happiness-for-you cry. I've been reading these little snippets about your decision over the past months, and I've seen you battle and strain from a distance. I love where your heart has ended up.

And it inspires me. I strive to come to a place like this in my own life. You encourage me so much with these words. I'm saving this and will be digesting it through the coming months.

No matter what your decision is, I know God will be doing great things through you and Jordan. I look forward to seeing everything unfold. I'm sorry this was long. I love you and am praying for so much more blessing (and adventure) in your life.

Brooke Bailey said...

Congrats to you and Jordan. I am biased though and would love for you to be back at VP! Wherever you go, God will use you bc He is awesome like that. Such an inspirational blog, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love your descriptions and thought-filled writing; as I gather THE decision has not yet been publicly announced - or I've had my head bured - I will not pressure to discover the decision, but will await the answer in due time. Auntie M