I’m a layer-outer. When I was going to Uganda over a decade ago, I started packing two months in advance. The guest room was empty, so I set up my suitcase in there and started making neat piles of travel supplies. Every day for weeks I stood in the guest room, thought through my list, and looked at my piles, slowly laying out every possible item I could imagine needing in Africa.
Think, think, think. To quote Pooh. Do I have every medicine? Every toiletry? Every clothing item? Enough books and pens and journals for the trip over? (Nerd.) Teaching supplies? Money? Passport? Fanny pack? Sun hat?
I was thorough and possibly neurotic.
But I’ve discovered I also have a tendency to be a layer-outer when it comes to making decisions. How is this decision going to play out? How can I make sure that I have done everything perfectly so that everything goes perfectly? We all want to know the outcomes of our decisions, laid out in nice, neat piles just the way we want them. Everything planned. All the results of our decisions faultless, with no unpleasant consequences of any kind.
That was my usual though process, until we approached the big decision of whether we were going to move in with Matt’s mom and aunt. The Spirit brought to mind Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)
“Ahem,” the Lord said. “I am the layer-outer, sister. Your role is just to acknowledge me and lean on me through this decision-making process. Got it?”
Dallas Willard, in Renovation of the Heart, says it bluntly:
I do not have to make things come out right. I am not the one in control of outcomes.
Try saying that out loud: “I am not the one in control of outcomes.” Doesn’t come off of the tongue easily, does it?
A doubt bubbled up inside of me, during our Year of Decision, and I had to stare it in the face. What if God didn’t make my path straight? What if I leaned on him and he let something happen that I didn’t want to happen? What about my what ifs? Trust me, he said. Lean on me. But could I really make a decision in the blind, trusting that no matter what he was going to straighten out my path in front of me?
It was around then that I decided God was good and kind that I would trust him. I would lean on him. I would acknowledge that he was in control of all outcomes. Turning to the Lord in worship became my daily habit. Trust and lean. Trust and lean. He is good. He is kind. He cares about me.
The outcome of our decision? My relationship with God put down deep roots, and I learned to enjoy leaning. That was the outcome.
What decisions are you facing? Are you losing sleep, laboring to control how everything is going to turn out, when control does not actually belong to you? Try leaving the path-straightening to Jesus.