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Preview — What's Your Decision? by J. Michael Sparough
Read between February 04 - February 15, 2021
The first step is to lay out our assumptions. What do we need to believe to make a good decision? The first premise is that God cares about our decisions. This isn’t self-evident, and not everyone believes it.
God cares. That’s our first premise. Our second premise is that “God’s will” is something more than a pious religious phrase.
The kind of decisions we’ll be talking about in this book are similar to Charlotte’s—choices between two or more attractive, morally permissible alternatives.
The social scientist Robert Bellah describes the moral shift that is expressive individualism this way: “Its genius is that it enables the individual to think of commitments—from marriage and work to political and religious involvement—as enhancements of the sense of individual well-being rather than moral imperatives.”
It’s okay to have made mistakes, to struggle with persistent problems, to fall short of an ideal of mastery. The goal is not perfection but progress in relationship with God.
In all these wanderings, he noticed that the true God did not castigate him for errors but lovingly helped him learn from them. This helped him to trust God more and to be more open.
The one necessary thing is this: love God first. Understand that you are in a relationship with God, who loves you and who desires the best for you. Approach your decisions as ways to cultivate and deepen this relationship.
Ignatius says, first, that we need to keep our end in mind. Our end is not professional success, romantic fulfillment, or self-actualization. Our end is God. Ignatius said that it is “the praise of God our Lord and the salvation of our soul.” The basic idea is that we are in a relationship with a higher power who loves us and cares for us. Our end is union with God, and our decisions are means to reach that end.
What is more, and this is the third problem, placing too much emphasis on coming to a final conclusion can obscure the one thing necessary: our relationship with God. Our culture encourages us to solve our problems and reach a kind of success, after which we’re all set—we don’t depend on anyone, and we can just sit in our hot tub, sip margaritas, and enjoy the good life. God invites us to a much more dynamic relationship, one that is ever deepening and in which we are constantly learning more about ourselves and others and God.
Good counsel for Anne, the unhappy MFA student in Iowa, would be to put aside any notion of quitting graduate school while she is in turmoil. Her decision to return to school was well considered. She made it during a time of emotional equilibrium, and she felt a deep sense of peace about it. Perhaps it was not the best decision. It’s possible that she should reopen the question. But Anne should wait for a calmer time to consider whether to do that. Meanwhile, she should continue her studies; she might want to work even harder at them. Other good suggestions would be for her to accept her ...more
Look at the beginning, middle, and end of a spiritual consolation to determine whether it comes from God. How did it start? How did it develop? Where has it left you now? If it began well and has left you focused on God, you can be confident that God is behind it. If it began well but now you find yourself doubtful or fearful or self-absorbed, you should suspect the influence of the evil spirit.
The evil spirit wants us to forget that we are fallible, limited human beings; sharing our decisions with another person will keep us grounded in reality.
Now that you have some clarity about which choice to make, take the decision to God. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius tells us to be explicit about this. Take the decision to Christ and say, “This is what I’ve decided to do. What do you think?” It’s easy to skip this step. People are relieved to have made a decision, and they want to get on with it. They are sure they’ve made the right choice—at least they are pretty sure—and they don’t want to hear anyone raising second thoughts. But confirmation is important. Present this decision to Christ.
The problem is that our perception of the good is obscured by our prejudices, wishful thinking, and unruly desires—this perception changes constantly.