Does Decision Making Paralyze You?
Do you feel paralyzed by making decisions? Do you ever wonder if God is watching every decision you make, ready to “tsk tsk” if you go too far to the right or too far to the left? Do you worry you’ll get it wrong and end up on God’s B-plan? Or even worse?
Who wants to live like that? Life isn’t supposed to be a mine-field, with every step holding mysterious terror. But women who have been emotionally or spiritually abused often catch their breath over all kinds of choices they need to make, afraid of making the wrong decision and incurring the wrath of someone in “authority” over them.
We can believe in the core of our being that God must be the same way. Waiting for us to just SCREW UP so He can shake His head in sorrow.
I’ve got a new way of looking at this crazy trap we find ourselves in. And it involves a rat maze and a garden. Let’s take a look:
The Rat Maze
Picture a sterile room with a series of large, intricate rat mazes on a white floor. There is a man in a white lab coat with a pair of black rimmed glasses taking meticulous notes on a clipboard. Once in a while, he looks at one of the rat mazes with a serious, academic expression on his face. You follow his gaze to see a healthy looking rat rapidly shuffling through the maze, figuring out each trick as he goes along.
When the rat goes the wrong way or makes a mistake, Lab Man scowls slightly, scoops it up with a flourish and deposits it carefully at the beginning of the next rat maze where the rat is given another chance at a new maze. Then Lab Man scratches out some more notes on his clipboard in a clinical manner.
Now picture a lush garden covered with a verdant floor and ancient strong tree trunks supporting a green canopy with azure blue peeking through the leaves above. Ripe fruit hangs from vines and trees, and flowers and foliage of every kind growing in beautiful abandon burst upon the senses with color and texture.
This wildly beautiful world goes on and on as far as the eye can see. And right in the middle you see a father with his child. He bends down to whisper something in her ear, and she laughs and begins to run with excitement, exploring, touching, calling out to her father in delight at each new discovery.
You see her pick up something with prickles, and it stings her hand. She cries out in dismay, and her father gently takes the prickle thing and lays it aside, soothing her and setting her free again to resume her adventures.
She falls down at one point, and once again, her father is there to pick her up, give her some advice, and then set her along her way. When he turns his face, you can see it is lit up with pleasure and peace.
Which Way Do You View Life?
Life is a Rat Maze
Life is a series of puzzles for you to figure out and GET RIGHT! Don’t go this way. Go that way. NO! Stop. Go back. Wrong turn. Good job, you did it right that time. Here comes a trick. Don’t mess it up! Use your head! Augh. You screwed that one up, but another one is coming. Maybe you’ll do better this time. Here we go. NOOOOOOOO! Can’t you get anything right? Now you’ll need to start all over on a new rat maze, because you messed this one up, big time.
Life is a Garden
There is so much to explore! Beauty to discover! And yes, prickles and pits to sting and stumble into. But you are free to take delight in the precious life you were given, and your purpose in it is simply to enjoy each moment and LIVE it to the fullest.
Which Way Do You View Yourself?
You are a Rat Being Watched by Lab Man
You aren’t worth all that much. You’re kind of repulsive, when you really look at yourself in the mirror. Your sole purpose is to fulfill someone else’s objective, and if you don’t do it right or in the correct time frame or in just the specific, certain, particular way you SHOULD…well.
BAM! You lose.
You are relegated to Rat Maze Two. Then Rat Maze Three. Until there are no more rat mazes, because you’re such a loser.
You are a Beloved and Protected Daughter
You are free to run and play and work because your Father loves you. You are beautiful and perfectly suited to your purpose in the garden. You don’t have to try to be a better you. You’re already perfectly you, and it’s perfectly lovely. Do you prefer to work alone and drink tea? TERRIFIC! Are you the life of the party who is a bit scatterbrained when it comes to keeping your files in order? FABULOUS!
You don’t have to earn your place in the garden. It’s been freely given to you. It’s your inheritance as a daughter of the Owner. If you were to sit in the middle of it, weeping profusely because you had no idea which way to go first, and you just didn’t want to make any mistakes, how would that Father feel?
If you had a daughter sitting in the middle of a garden, weeping profusely because she had no idea which way to go first, and she just didn’t want to make any mistakes, would that not break your heart? You’d want to tell her, “Don’t worry about mistakes! Just enjoy! Just run! Just explore! Just LIVE!” And you’d be thrilled if she got up and did so.
So why would YOU sit in the middle of your life doing the same?
Which Way Do You View God?
God is Lab Man
Is God a cold, calculated academic just viewing you as an expendable lab experiment? Sheesh. No wonder you’re afraid of making a mistake.
God is Your Father
Or is God your Father Who has your back? Will He be there to pick up the pieces when you break something? Will He guide you and guard you? Will He let you make mistakes (because every good parent knows that’s the best way to learn incredible lessons?)
No matter what other people in the garden say or do, you’ve got your best interests covered in this scenario. This frees you up to enjoy life and be the woman your Creator designed you to be.
Real Gospel Grace is freedom and joy and peace. Not fear and shame. Did you catch that? If your spiritual community is all about controlling people with fear and shame, it’s not of Christ. It’s toxic, satanic, crapola. Period. Time to leave the rat tales behind and enter into your inheritance as a daughter of the King!
So I have an exercise for you to get you started.
- Go to a mirror and look at yourself. Say OUT LOUD, “Self, God gave you to me to steward, but I haven’t taken responsibility for you. I’ve neglected you and thrown you under the bus in an effort to get love from other places. No more. From now on, I’ve got your back. From now on, I intend to take care of YOU. I commit to figuring out who you are and taking steps to set you free to be everything God made you to be. You are loved by your Father in Heaven – and me. Between the two of us, you are going to go from dying to thriving.” Seriously. Do it.
- Take a notebook, and for one week write down your emotions whenever something happens that makes you feel guilty, ashamed, unloved, or fearful. Write down what’s causing those emotions. What happened? What were you thinking? What were people telling you? What were the voices inside your head telling you? You are going to begin to observe yourself objectively. After a week, you should be able to read everything and see some patterns.
Natalie, when I decided to divorce my spouse, it was with a feeling of confirmation from my Heavenly Father that this was the right choice. I felt a loving Heavenly Father behind me all of the way, and I never looked back. I have been blessed beyond measure from that point forward for taking the right step in ending a destructive marriage. Although this decision is likely not as easy for most, and I admit I struggled for a long time with it, there came a point through personal prayer that I realized there was only one decision to make and only one correct thing to do, and that I had to stop listening to everyone and do what I felt was right.
Heads up! The link to the brain renewal exercise is broken..
Outstanding post. I know all people, but women too, experience pressure from an early age to “please others”. This pressure can come from misdirected discipline, to peer pressure, to outright selfish or narcissistic individuals. When we hear about God’s love – of course that’s something we want! So we set out to please God using the mechanisms we’ve picked up from unhealthy people. And that takes all the joy out of the offering as God starts to look like a face in a crowd of disappointed people. After all, God actually IS always right, much like the people we’ve struggled to impress in the past. You used a very effective analogy to highlight that while yes, God is always right, He is also always LOVE. Compassion. Mercy. Empathy. Forgiveness. Truth. Thank you!
I am feeling this way right now. Spent five years with a man who was emotionally abusive. Got me and my two kids out. I’m waiting to finalize the divorce and am paralyzed with fear. Fear that I’m making the wrong decision, that I will hurt my children somehow, fear of being divorced. Spoke with our pastor who said I should “take the risk” and get back together with my husband since I don’t feel physically threatened. My husband who is still smoking marijuana everyday and refuses to quit, who is going to ruin me financially, who recently removed a condom during sex without my knowledge. All of these things are such red flags to me. Why am I still paralyzed??
What you are feeling and experiencing is normal. When you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you experience trauma to your very personhood. It’s hard to see things clearly. I think you are brave. And you are trying to keep your children safe too. Stay the course. Things will get clearer with time. You’ll be amazed at just how clear things get the longer you are out of the toxic relationship. (((hugs)))
Leave! Your life can be so much better! I did and have never regretted it! God has blessed me with a new and Godly husband!
I wondered if you had any thoughts about our decisions that affecr our children. For me, it is one thing to run into a nettle and sting myself, but what if my decision causes my children, who have no control over those decisions, to get stung? That is what paralyzes me concerning big decisions, especially ones that have an impact on their futures indivudually or collectively. Your post was timely, however. Thank you!
This is a good question and a valid concern. Your kids WILL be affected. You’ll need to look at all the pros and cons of a decision and pray God gives you discernment. Rocking the boat has definitely impacted my kids on many levels and has, by far, been the worst and scariest part of walking through the “getting out” process for me.
BUT, our children belong to God before they belong to us. God is in charge of their life journey. In many ways, we don’t have a whole lot of control over that, although we like to believe we do.
For me, being honest and open about the truth was more important that protecting them from the consequences of the truth. (Or protecting me from the consequences of exposing the truth.) My kids have been in counseling for a year now, and they are getting help. Some are doing great, and others are still struggling. But my kids are not in physical danger. They experience emotional manipulation and confusion, but to have one parent who supports them, listens to them, validates their voice, etc.. is HUGE in their recovery. If your children will be in physical danger, you may need to discuss your options with someone on an abuse hotline.
Hello, I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I tend to think of God as the loving Father, but myself as the rat? It doesn’t make any sense. I think I’m a lot harder on myself than God would be, and instead of extending myself grace, I withhold it. Thanks for this great reminder!
Thank you for your comment. You’re right. It doesn’t make any sense!
I love your analogies. And as we get to know the loving Father, He gives us wise words about tending the garden with Him, but if we mess up, He has no desire to pounce or taunt, but when we turn back to Him He patiently and lovingly restores and rebuilds.
I believe the “lab rat” thinking might have been passed down from the Puritans, not all of them, certainly, but some. Some of their thinking has seemed sort of like lab rat thinking to me.
I think you are right!!