Life is full of difficult decisions. In the time leading up to my trip, I owed my landlord months of rent in addition to the approaching payments of my student loans. Had I stayed in California and continued my tenacity, I have no doubt that I would become stable as I have before… but at what personal cost? California is awesome and expensive. While I was making progress toward my financial independence, the mental struggle I went through each month to pay my dues was eroding my sense of self. I grew unable to enjoy the things in LA I had initially moved out for and was struggling to maintain depth in the relationships I had. I increasingly felt isolated and I left California feeling defeated.
When the time to move came, I was already leaning toward a ministry in Michigan. To pursue this prospect, I thinned out my belongings to what I could fit in my car. I headed through the mountains, drove under the sunny skies and had a euphemistic optimism about what was ahead. That was day 1. On day 2 of my drive, reality set in. When I reached the open fields of Nebraska, I realized that I had a mind numbing amount of time to reflect on my decision. Should I have stayed? Have I forfeited God’s plan for me? What does God want me to choose? These are the questions I began to wrestle with on my drive.
Choices are easy to make when the nature of their outcome is predictable. Decision making is difficult when we consider that there is a grey area. If I decide not to brush my teeth, then I should not be surprised when I get a cavity. This is an easy decision to make. I should always brush my teeth! However, deciding between two things that are of the same good nature, especially when you are in a pinch, makes the process of deciding difficult. My thinking is that when you have two things (like two good job offers) and must choose to keep one, there is wisdom in deciding which one is the better thing to be had. In the end, the right decision will bear more fruit.
In my situation, staying in California was not a wise option, though it was difficult to leave the people I had met. For a solid year, I wavered between a job in Oregon and a job in Michigan. On the one hand, I could have moved to Oregon to work as an admissions recruiter for a seminary. While this isn’t a snug fit with my theology degree, it offered a few things that were good. First and foremost, it provided an opportunity to introduce people to theological education. This is an important thing considering the current changes in seminary. It also would have been a means to more financial comfort and its not like money isn’t something that I need. Even more so, Oregon would have brought about the opportunity to travel and I love building new experiences with people.
On the other hand, Michigan has benefits of its own. In general, I have special feelings for Michigan because it is my home state. In Michigan, I would have the opportunity to work as a server in a restaurant. A server job may seem to others as less extravagant than a recruiter job. I think service related work instills many qualities that prepare people for a life of success. Service, promotes the growth of character qualities that lead to a successful ministry. The tending to others, wearing the face of your product, and maintaining patience all scream ministry to me. In addition, I gathered that most of what I would like about Oregon and the northwest as whole are things that I already appreciate about my home state Michigan. Oregon seemed like a liberal version of Michigan and I have about had it with liberal thinking. Oregon, seemed like a prolonging of the inevitable return to Michigan. The only difference between the two was that a line of work is already available for me in Oregon. Moving to Michigan seemed like the better choice because it would force me to figure out how my degree is relevant to the society around me. If I don’t figure out how to make what I’ve learned relevant then I don’t want my degree.
I sometimes regret the principled way I act because of the stress it brings me. However, I cannot willingly defile my conscience so I tend to make decisions based off of the growth that I think it will bring my character and not the financial gain it will make me. I know that this is stressful for my self and for the people around me. I also know that there is a better balance to be had with making money and pursuing character. My dream however has always been to start a community building ministry that focuses on reconciliation. This calls for a faith that does not outpace its character. Michigan seems like a snug fit for this kind of thing. Reconciliation ministry requires an exceeding fortitude of character because reconciliation work is a slow and heart grappling endeavor. In this decision making process, it became clear that such a ministry is going to be difficult to start regardless of where it begins. Whether I continued working in Los Angeles, moved to Oregon, or drove off to Michigan, I would have to initiate the difficult process of getting this work started.
The need for reconciliation permeates our society. There is technically no place you could go where reconciliation wouldn’t be relevant. However, California is huge and has a lot going on already. It made more sense to me that I should start off in a smaller–yet growing place like Michigan because the matters of reconciliation are more approachable. The characteristics of population, scale of disparity, etc, occur on a more observable scale in Michigan than in California and I saw this as an opportunity to get to the core issues of reconciliation work. Further, Michigan cities like Grand Rapids remain in a period of constant growth, and I understood the nature of that growth to be something that opens its people to new ideas. People here are on the lookout for something and a reconciliation ministry might just be that something. Thus, Michigan became my priority.
Overall, God wants to be the priority in our decision making. Yet, there is an enduring struggle in our hearts to place God first. We would enter the furnace like Daniel if God said it was His will, but it is a difficult thing to hear God. The closer to the midwest I got the more uncertain I felt about my decision to move. Part of me thinks that this might be the point of faith. Despite my weakness of understanding and regardless of my heart’s fluttering hesitations, God’s strength is still being perfected in me. I want to go where I would rely on God’s strength and not my own.