On Careers and Choices and Being Afraid of Both
Author: Daniel Warner | MTR ’14 | East High School
Coming back after moving somewhere else awards me a new title. I am the old friend. It’s better than “my friend from out of town,” because with it comes a sense of familiarity, the kind of sweetness friendship acquires only after much time has passed. Yet I am the old friend, and this sets me apart, and it reminds me that I made a decision nearly a year and a half ago now to leave.
With age comes opportunity, and with opportunity comes choice. Opportunity makes choice necessary, for there is little reason to have many opportunities if no decisions are to be made.
It is the quintessence of privilege to have more than one option—“Which college do I like the most? Which job makes me feel the most alive?”—these are the questions privilege can ask, questions about what is best, not what is simply attainable. We see options as paralyzing and we function out of fear instead of realizing that meaningful choice is a gift experienced by few. A gift with consequences, but a gift nonetheless.
Choice is the weapon we must learn to wield the most wisely, but too often being “wise” with our choices leads us to fear our choices. We are nervous to close the door on other opportunities, but at its root, choice is saying yes to one thing and no to another.
I think it’s easier to receive orders, to take commands from a superior, than to choose for myself. If I am taking orders, then I can see myself as noble for doing the job even if I don’t like it. But if I choose it myself, then I have no nobility to feel and I have no one but myself to blame if it isn’t everything I had hoped. This is the fear at the heart of decision making.
Being back at Belmont yesterday got me thinking about this. All the “I don’t knows” coming from behind a nervous smile when I asked what’s next after school. There is so much paralysis when it comes to decision making, especially when it’s about our future–the perfect place for an idyllic version of myself to do nothing but what is right and good.
The sooner we embrace that our future, like our past, will not be perfect, the sooner we will feel free to decide. And here’s the reality. If you are following Jesus, honestly praying about stuff and seeking out counsel, there is no wrong choice. Our discernment is not perfect, in fact it oftentimes errs on the side of playing it safe. Discernment doesn’t mean doing the easy thing, neither does “being wise.” Christian freedom means you are allowed to try something out, fail, move on, and try something different. So jump in. You can only stare at the ocean for so long before it’s time to jump in. All the way in. That’s what we are meant for.
We’ve somehow made it okay to live a halfhearted Christian life as long as we speak the right way about our decisions that are really based more on maintaining our safety net than on following the call of Jesus. The call to come and die sounds foolish to anyone who doesn’t know Jesus. The call to come and die will look reckless to anyone who doesn’t believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain (yes, even Christians who don’t believe this yet). The way we give our money should look silly to outsiders, the way we seek out the least of our world should cause uneasiness, the way we don’t get hung up on getting promoted or being noticed should make people think we are a little off.
And that’s what we are. A little off. A little captivated by a vision of a different kingdom, of a different King. So go follow that King, and don’t worry about if you’re climbing a corporate ladder or if you are making the perfect decision. You’re making a decision, and that’s the first step to going down any path at all, maybe even a path that God has called you to. The pressure’s off, just jump in.
To hear more from Daniel, check out his full blog, “Written Thoughts, Once a Week for a Year”.