John and I are currently reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. They were a childhood favorite of mine, but the stories are even more powerful reading them as an adult because of the spiritual imagery and analogies that you don't pick up on cognitively as a kid. There's a scene that I love in the sixth book, The Silver Chair, that depicts difficult and scary decisions that we all face. (Warning: spoiler alert ahead.)
Reading in the park together
The main characters Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum find themselves alone with a Knight who is under an enchantment. They are told that he will turn into a dangerous serpent and must be bound every night, but as they watch, the Knight suddenly shouts, "Quick! I am sane now. Every night I am sane. If only I could get out of this enchanted chair it would last. I should be a man again. But every night they bind me, and so every night my chance is gone." Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum hold strong and refuse to believe the Knight's pleas until he says, "I adjure you to set me free... by the great Lion, by Aslan himself..." And then suddenly, they face the dilemma of who to believe.
"What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? ...Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone - even a lunatic - who asked it in his name?"
Finally Puddleglum comments that Aslan had told them what to do when his name was called upon, not what would happen. Whatever the result would be didn't matter: "That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign." I won't spoil what happens next, but isn't this the decision that all of us make?
We want to know what the results will be and what will be required of us before we decide to act. But we are told to follow where God is calling us no matter the results. And so we must trust that the correct decision is the one with the right motive of truly seeking to follow what God has called you to do. Yet it's often difficult to discern the right choice in situations that are very complicated, such as issues of homelessness, addictions, and co-dependency. Oftentimes it's easier to continually "wait and see" and therefore do nothing because it seems like no best choice can be made. The risk of making the wrong choice appears too great, as in the case with The Silver Chair. But God honors our intentions and gives us wisdom and discernment when we are truly seeking it. Yet so frequently we, myself included, look for the best decision for ourselves and our own comfort. We give money away because it's uncomfortable to say no, even if it will fuel another's addiction. Or we don't give money away because it will be financially uncomfortable for us. These decisions can't be made in a vacuum, and each scenario requires intentional listening to God and dialogue with community. As in The Silver Chair, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum all discussed the situation and decided together what action they would take. So in whatever difficult decisions you need to make this week, check your motives and truly be willing to listen to the direction that God has placed on your heart. Even when it's uncomfortable.