There are many trivial, inconsequential decisions that we make on a daily basis. We are very busy with the mundane – what to eat, what to buy, where to go, what to read, where to surf in the internet, what shows we view on TV, the movies we watch, which friends we talk to, etc. etc.
On the business side, we are busy attending to paperwork, meetings, reports, letters that must be sent out, deadlines to meet. We make business decisions driven by logical and analytical thinking. Business plans are prepared backed up by market and financial analyses, market research and focus group discussions, internal and external reviews and consultation. We scan the environment for opportunities and threats. Endless meetings are held, all done in the hope that we will make the right business decisions. Business dictates that we follow policies and procedures, and processes as stipulated in corporate manuals.
The question is: “Where is God in all of these? Should we consult God for every decision especially the minor ones that we have to make on a daily basis. Did he not give us the brains and the power to think for ourselves?” After all, as mature and responsible adults, we do not run to our parents every time we have to make a decision.
I used to think that what our Lord is probably more interested in is the general direction of our lives, the major milestones, the forks in the road. After all, these are the significant times that determine the trajectory of our lives. These are the moments when we have to consult him, ask for his guidance, seek spiritual discernment. It is the big stuff that we should bring to God. We seek God so as not to make big and sometimes fatal mistakes.
I also used to believe that He really leaves us alone to make the small and sometimes not so small decisions because He does not want to spoon feed us every day. Allowing us the freedom to choose helps develop our own decision-making prowess and our character. All the better for mistakes we commit because we are supposed to learn from them.
It reminds me of a retreat master who was asked for his opinion as to a particular issue. He responded by throwing back the question to the one raising the question and asked ‘what do you think?’. His point was for the participants to become informed and seek the answer without resorting to the opinion of others. The way to accomplish this, he says, is that we have to strive for higher levels of consciousness or awareness so that we can exercise our best judgments. He further said that the challenge is for men to become fully “conscious” so that intelligent and wise decisions can be made. Decision makers must be accountable for the consequences.
Given these opposing points of views, there seems to be an apparent contradiction of sorts.
On the one hand, we are supposed to seek God’s will all the time. We are told that He cares about the tiniest, intimate details of our lives. After all, isn’t it written in the bible that he even knows how many strands of hair we have on our heads.
On the other hand, since we are supposed to exercise our God-given mental faculties to make decisions, should we even involve God in the day to day running of our lives, in the petty and tiny details excepting perhaps for the major issues? Isn’t it too much to ask the Lord for the little things we are about on a daily basis which we can very well take care of on our own? My Jesuit training says that we should exercise logic and reason to arrive at decisions.
It has taken me a number of years to realize that there is really no contradiction. I think the answer can be found in what the Lord said “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7)”. To abide is to be present, to be immersed. This is the heart of the matter. The Lord wants to be present in our lives, inside our hearts, our minds and our very souls. He desires to be totally immersed in our entire being. Not a casual acquaintance he seeks. It is a permanent residency.
When he says that we should be a new creation in Christ, he literally means it. Our relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior does not mean that we are merely to be transformed. Rather, we must allow ourselves to be re-created into an entirely new creature, a replica of God who will think, speak and act like him. This is also why he says we must die unto ourselves, to discard the old wineskin, to leave the old for the new, to lose ourselves so that Christ can be found in us.
Its implication is that when we abide in His word, it is the mind of God that works in us. God’s ways and character become our own. Decisions and response will now be driven by the nature of God in us. The way of love, of peace, of communal goodness will drive our day-to-day choices. Whether our decisions will be life-changing or just trivial ones, there is no more differentiation because the abiding presence of God will always influence them and guide our feet into the correct path. Our loving choices become innate and natural, habitual, and automatic.
However, while it is God who will drive these choices, there are two things we should bear in mind. Firstly, He will not make the decision for us. We still have to take the step. While his presence is in us, we still have to choose which way to go, trivial or otherwise. This is where the exercise of our freedom of choice comes in, where the human and the divine coincide and intersect. When Christ lives in us, we become liberated, truth will set us free.
The second point is that abiding in the presence of Christ is a life-long journey. We have to train our minds and hearts to think the thoughts of God so that when we are faced with decisions, whether minor or major, they are driven by Christ himself. We need to train our hearts to listen to the small voice of the Holy Spirit and act accordingly to his promptings.
When Christ is in us, there is nothing then so small that will not interest God.