by guest blogger Katie Noah Gibson
That’s the question that has plagued me all my life.
I am a classic oldest child – organized, responsible, driven to excel. These traits came in handy as I competed in spelling bees and made straight A’s, and later as I learned to drive, plan my own travel, pay my own bills, and write research papers (of which I wrote plenty as I earned two English degrees). When I want to learn how to do something, I consult a book, to make sure I’m doing it right. And I’ve always tried to avoid the embarrassment caused by doing anything wrong.
For years, I applied this logic to my Christian faith, believing God had one perfect will for my life, and that I could discover and follow it, like a treasure map leading to some fabulous discovery. I attended a thousand (more or less) youth group meetings and camps where I heard about finding the right spouse, the right career, making the right choices to follow God’s calling for me.
This mindset led, understandably, to a lot of agonizing – and fear of making the wrong decision. Should I take this class or that one? Date that boy or this one (as long as they were both Christians)? Go to this Christian college or that one – though they stood less than two miles apart from each other?
Unfortunately, the fear of doing it wrong has often paralyzed me, preventing me from taking risks, making messes or enjoying new experiences. I’ve been so focused on doing it right that sometimes I forget the value of a messy, exciting life, lived with confidence and even joy.
A year ago, my husband and I made a cross-country leap, moving to Boston from West Texas. After months of thirsting for a fresh adventure, it felt like the right decision, the alluring “bend in the road” beloved by my heroine Anne Shirley. But during a long, cold winter that included record snowfalls and six months of unemployment for me, and as our list of friends in Boston remained stubbornly small, I began to wonder if we were doing it right after all.
I still wonder that, actually. Should we be living so far from our families and the friends we left in Abilene? Should we move somewhere less expensive so we can begin to save for a down payment on a house, and the eventual children we hope to have? Should I start writing that memoir now, instead of letting the story simmer awhile? Should I think about pursuing an MFA or a Ph.D., when many of my creative friends are doing so?
I don’t know the right answers to these questions – and I don’t know, honestly, if there are any. I’m starting to believe I could take one of several paths and still come out with a full, rich life. And on the spiritual side, I’m starting to believe God’s will looks less like a treasure map and more like the words of Micah 6:8:
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
This verse sounds like a simple prescription for a good life, but it’s actually quite demanding – and often complicated. However, it does relieve some of the pressure to get every little thing right. Trying to be a certain kind of person – just, merciful, humble, loving – is much simpler than trying to make sure every single decision is the “right” one.
Do you struggle with getting things “right” – either in a spiritual sense or in a broader life sense? How do you deal with this big question, or quiet your inner critic?
About the guest blogger: I know Katie because we both attended Abilene Christian University and I somewhat inadvertently followed in her footsteps: she was an English major, I was an English major; she worked as an editor for our alumni magazine, I had the same job two years later; she attended Oxford-Brookes University for her M.A. in English; so did I, a year after her. I promise I’m not stalking you, Katie. But I guess I kind of am. Now, Katie lives with her husband near Boston. She freelance writes and edits and blogs at cakes, tea and dreams.