Navigating confusion in the midst of decisions

In every big decision that we make, there are little elements that causes us to pause. Most of the times we are not aware of these because of the way they present. Let’s talk about that little element of confusion. The mind has to reconcile in the midst of breakthrough moments and big decisions, is this really the right thing to do or am I crazy? I call this the element of confusion. Confusion is “the inability to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do.” It comes with a number of signs, including,”sudden changes in emotion, such as sudden agitation.

READ MORE: Bursting the myths of fear

Have you ever felt confident in a goal or desire that you are pursuing, but something or someone comes and knocks you out of your adrenaline rush? Once certain that the Lord gave you permission to take that trip, take that exciting opportunity, or refrain from doing something; but, the moment you settle into your decision something happens. You shared it with people, and now you have to reconcile their viewpoints as part of your decision making process- leaving you a little hm, confused. Did you really hear God the first time? Are you making the right decision? These questions plaque your mind leaving your brain too overwhelmed to decide on what is best for you.

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“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace…”1 Corinthians 14:33. Making decisions can often cause us to pause for many reasons, but remember we have to keep moving forward, not fall prey to confusion. So how do we ensure that we don’t get stuck here…and give up forever. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: why am I confused? What did God tell me the first time? And who am I allowing to make my decision for me?

Why?

When it comes to certain decisions, I often feel that I do not have the ability to trust myself to make this decision, especially when I’ve failed too many times. So I go seeking counsel from sources that I believe have my best interest at heart. Many times when we share our goals with too many people, what we find is that everyone has a different perspective and rather than having to wrestle with our own, we now have an overload of opinions. I have a colleague who is looking for a house. She appeared extremely anxious and overwhelmed. When I inquired, this is when I learned that she had been getting so many opinions from friends and family so she has no idea if she’ll ever get a house. The market is too crazy! Move out of town! Wait til summer, blah blah blah….That’s what happen when we rely on other people’s opinions. Why are YOU confused? Well, when we choose to surrender our decision making abilities to other people, that’s what happens. Yes, we get to take counsel from others (choose who you want counsel from), and when they give us, we can decide for ourselves how beneficial their advise is to us. In other words, do we toss it or keep some or all of it? Once we take back control over our ability to make the decision we stop being confused.

Who?

Who are you surrendering your decision making abilities to, family members, trusted church brethren, friends? I realized that I was allowing these wonderful Godly women whom I trust and whom I consider experts in the area that I am making a decision, in the relationship realm. This is not the first time I’ve done this over my life. Out of fear, I wanted to hold on to every opinion in hopes that they would stare me right. But, I felt more confused than at peace. I don’t get to share my goals and desires with everyone – because even their good intentions can be hurtful and wounding to the soul. Rather than being helpful, they are hinderances to my faith. Even though I trust that these friends have my best interests, I still don’t have to put a heavy weight on their opinions. I still get the final say!

What?

“What did God tell you the first time?” This is the question my dear sister asked me when I told her I’m becoming more confused with all the opinions I’ve been sorting through. Rather than feeling stuck, I have to come back to God. I get to tell Him in prayer, “Lord, I am stuck and confused right now and I know you are not the author of confusion, so please remove everything or everyone that is causing me to feel confused. Please remind me of what you told me the first time.” This way, we are bringing God right where He needs to be, in our hearts.

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We get the right to make decisions- this is the summation of all of our life experiences. We all want to “do the right thing” so that we don’t mess up and fail. But, honestly, it’s better to make a bad decision and fail, rather than surrendering control of our decisions to others – and then fail. When we make a “bad decision” this is an opportunity to learn and then pivot. When we make a good decision, we can celebrate our win and gain confidence to make more decisions in the future. The point is, we shouldn’t give up this amazing power, even if we are scared. I am in the midst of a life changing decision, and I for one am very scared. I seriously do not trust myself, but I have prayed. “With Christ, I can do anything” Philippians 4:13.

READ MORE: Let’s do a new thing in 2022

Let that be an encouragement to you in month 5! Don’t give up on yourselves, we can do this. Remove every confusion and keep on moving. If you are in the middle of a big mistake, pivot, but don’t stop. Trust yourself. You got this!

Let love last all year, part II

If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:15

All we need is love, is just another Christmas song we play once a year. When it comes down to it, we can’t find love in the people we are supposed to love to save our lives. The reality is that, when we get up close and vulnerable with people, they find words to hurt us. They ignore, they walk away, they don’t meet our expectations, and they treat us worse than strangers. The reality is that we are destroying each other daily. Our families are the best at this, and for those who also have a church family, you are doubly likely to get bitten and devoured. [I am sorry to begin this article on a negative tone]. The Apostle Paul is giving us a heads up that we ought to follow the second most important commandment, that is, love our neighbours as we love ourselves. If we do not love then like animals, we will be destroyed by each other.

let love last all year, family sitting together
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Have you ever walked away from a church community to seek better pastures? Have you ever moved thousands of miles from your family so that you won’t have to see them too often? As Christians, couldn’t we find a different way to resolve our differences? Why is it all so complicated? And why is the easiest choice to give up and walk away? How do we know that we have loved enough? Or to phrase this another way, when has love not been enough?

READ MORE: Let love last all year, part I

Do you recall 1 Corinthians 13:13? “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love allows us to compromise, it allows us to be patient, to trust, to not be so easily angered, to not be so rude, or proud, or envious or unkind. This is not just for the other person who does this to us, this is also speaking to the one who reads this (and of course, the one who is writing this). We tend to blame the other individual, but fail to realize that we ought to be first to forgive, first to not keep a record of wrongs, first to hope and perseverance, and first to surrender our pride. Yes, love actually calls us to be the first to show love, not to wait for it to be shown to us- that is the definition of selfish. And love is most certainly not selfish. So, have we been enabling the destruction of God’s gifts to us: The family and the church? Or, are we fighting like hell to love each other as we love ourselves?

let love last all year, family sitting together with flowers
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So, when is love not enough? The Apostle Mark says, “If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand.…” (Mark 3:25). This is the trouble when there isn’t anymore love: Your house is not going to stand. Even God can’t or won’t work in a house that is divided. This is what God says in Revelations 2:4-5: “But I have this against you: You have abandoned your first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

When we surrender ourselves to Christ and let His Spirit be what the world sees, we have a chance at knowing how to love. It’s not as easy as the world says about falling in love. We do not fall into love. Love is a continuous decision we make daily, even when we don’t want to. When we cannot anymore, we ought to pray. Because without love, little by little, we will destroy each other. And, that is not what God wants from us, definitely not from His church.

READ MORE: Love will never fail us

We can admit that when we are not loved, it can be the worse feeling. And when there is no love in a home, it can be the coldest and loneliest place to be. Although you might choose to reside there anyway, it doesn’t bring out the best in us. God calls us to be the light of the world, and there can’t be any light when you are living in darkness. Therefore, pray for love, pray for a spark, and definitely pray for God’s candlestick. The reality is, if I…do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Running the good race until it’s over

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7

I remember when I started really going to church. I say “really” because as long as I knew myself I had been going to church. I don’t remember missing too many Sunday school when I was a child in Jamaica. But, when I came to Canada at 13 years old, things changed. I didn’t go as much because the relatives I lived with didn’t go, except for the usual (Easter and Christmas services). It was my mother’s constant reminders on each telephone call from Jamaica, that pressed it on my heart to continue going to church. Luckily, I had another aunt who attended, so I went to a little church called Global Apostolic Ministries on Sundays. By the time I turned 15 years old, I secretly baptized. While my mother was very concerned about my spirituality, my Canadian family were not concerned about that…so I didn’t tell them about my baptism. They were more worried I was making a big mistake than anything else. Today, I am thankful to my mother’s encouragement and that aunt that took me to church on Sundays, because I have never regretted giving my life to God all those decades ago. Yet, over the years, my walk had never been simple. Sometimes, people cut in on my race, and cause me to stumble.

The Christian life is not as easy as I thought it would have been as a teenager. This was the reason, my guardians were worried I was making a big mistake. “Wait until you are older” they said. Were they right? It depends. I have stumbled so many times, throughout every season of my life, that I wonder if they were right. I think I have a spiritual limp because I can’t seem to stand straight enough to run the race. When it comes to running races, I should know more than many others out there. Why? I was a track and field athlete for a long time. For as long as I can remember, even up to University, I had been on the track team, practicing day after day. Practices got intense during the varsity years. The mixture between outdoor work-outs, including Saturday mornings for 2-hours on the hill, and the indoor workouts, including Wednesday morning weight-lifting and swimming. I just wanted to die. The swimming wasn’t freestyle, they were actual track workouts in the water…if you can imagine that! The point is, no practise was ever easy. It was made to strengthen me, to give me power, and to let me know even at exhaustion, I can still mentally will myself to do more! So, why did I think that the Christian race was going to be easy?

READ MORE: Faith and love move mountains

Let’s start with asking why did I want to be baptized. When I looked around the little church and I saw all the kids and teens worshiping God, I wanted whatever they had. They were happy and free, and I wasn’t. I was living in a place of discomfort and I was being tested already. I was a 13 year old living without my parents, and outside of the culture I grew up in, and now I wanted to connect to people who were similar to me. Unlike school, I saw all Jamaican teens at the church, and I wanted to belong to this group. Was that a bad reason? That, coupled with the pastor’s charismatic appeals that we need to be baptized to make it heaven, made me believe that I had no other choice. If God was going to come tonight, I wanted to be one of His sheep that goes with Him. Again I asked, was this why my guardians were concerned? You can imagine that was where my first obstacle came from. As a new believer, the only place I could truly practice religion was at church. And my aunt that I lived with was very hesitant about me going every Sunday. While my church had their own rules about hat wearing, skirt wearing, and cautious about music I listened too; those were not the same rules at home. We listened to reggae, hip-pop and all kinds of songs, especially with another teenager in the house. We had other rules like do not come home late, no talking to boys on the phone, as well as other home responsibilities. As a teen, it was hard to juggle the conflicting messages I was getting from my two authoritarian regimes. Both were on the opposite sides of each other, and I was trying to please them. Needless to say, it got tiring!

So, Who cut in on me from… obeying the truth? It all just became exhausting. Maybe it was because of University. When I went to University, it became a place of neutrality…liberalism. I do not have to think about God here. And that was my respite. It felt so good to know that it’s okay not to know the truth, and I didn’t need to believe in God to live the good life. I can give myself a break and do further research to see what I believed, and in the meantime, do whatever I wanted to do. Listen to any music, go out with any guy, drink, and have sex. Basically, do whatever everyone else had been doing all along. I had no rules and I was finally free from the leashes of church and family. Maybe, my family was right all along.

It wasn’t until I went travelling for two years, to Mexico, Japan, and South Korea, that I began to think about what God really meant to me. I prayed in Korea and realized He was still there. Strange as that sounded. You see I associated the church and God as one and the same thing. And since I felt that the church wasn’t always truthful in giving me all the answers to the questions I had, especially having learnt a few things in University (ie. That it wasn’t God who wrote the bible, but it was men); I disbelieved. Or more accurately, I didn’t know what to believe, so I stopped seeking. In South Korea, however, I prayed and to my surprise I felt His peaceful presence. It was a surprise because I really thought God was just at church and with the pastor. At 23 years old, I met God and that was where my relationship with God started. And I have been stumbling ever since. Only now learning that this relationship requires an immense amount of trust. I am so thankful today that God has been patient with me. He is that kind of lover and Father that will never leave you, no matter how many times you walk away. So, again, was my family right?

READ MORE: Faith and love equals righteousness

No, they were not! Choosing a relationship with God, even for the wrong reasons, is never a bad or a wrong thing. God already chose us, and it is His plan to take our entire lives to show us how much He loves us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3. Just like my track practises over the years, the workouts get exhausting, and so does the Christian walk. As the bible says, “…The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong…,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11), but we have to endure the race to receive the prize (Hebrews 10:36). All along, I had one goal in mind as a teen, and that was to have fun and be in a place that made me happy. As I matured, I came to realize that, the obstacles and tests have been equivalent to my track practices. They are designed to draw me closer to Christ. That after two decades of being a Christian, I am still on the journey of growing to know Him and learning how to trust Him. This is his will for my life, to live for His pleasure, and to abide in Him all the days of my life. I am stumbling, but I haven’t stopped. Now, I know this, no one, not even me, should keep me from obeying the truth.

May 26th: Church in Jamaica

The drive to Clarendon was lovely! Jamaica has great highways believe it or not. There isn’t much to really talk about on this day expect when I was asked to go up to the pulpit to talk about myself and what I do- working with youths at a detention centre. And with that experience, give advice to parents about how to work with their children. I felt a little overwhelmed here, totally unprepared but after a rough start I started making sense- I think. At least the only consolation is that the pastor was nodding in agreement and so were the youths in the congregation. I cannot repeat all the things I said because truly I can’t remember. I felt like I was jumbling everything up- I’m glad I came home with a point to leave with them and quickly made my way off the pulpit. All experiences are learning moments so I leave it at that. Good or bad, I may never see some of those people again- I think.

On the way home we stopped to buy mangoes- my my my…I had never seen a mango that big- an East Indian mango. I planted my whole face in the mango and could not stop until it was done…Yum! Yum!  

Day Eleven: Places to volunteer

It’s been almost two weeks and all I have been getting are calls to find out what I’m interested in doing for my volunteer service. I spoke to several people at church as well as a few in the community. It’s not like I started when I arrived, I have been doing research since February. I thought I landed the best option: to build houses for the needy. I know it may appear like a giant task but the thought to do something different appealed to me. Also the fact that the organization was reputable, I thought this would be the best and safest. Even when I submitted my application form, had my three references submit letters they had requested, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) did not respond to me. Yes at first they were prompt with their responses, but I thought they would have sent me an email saying that I was accepted, or my application was declined.

I got an offer to work with a soup kitchen as well as with the homework club but it seem that everything had been delayed. I even had a call to work with different schools in various capacities. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to volunteer?

Finally on Thursday, it seemed that everyone had worked out a plan on how they needed me and my services. First, I went to fill out a volunteer form at the YMCA in Kingston. The coordinator, lovely lady, gave me a tour of the facility and introduced to the teachers and other employees. She asked if I could start on Monday and I said yes. Before that, I got a call from the Webster memorial united church to help with their soup kitchen and their homework club. They asked me to start on Tuesday. Then on Friday nights I’m helping with Youth services at Bethel United Apostolic. The moment I got home from my busy day, I got a call from a woman that attends the Apostolic church, who also is a teacher. She wanted me to speak with the principal because she felt that I could be of assistance. “When can you come in?” Now that I have lots to do and something of a schedule, I’m needed. “Is Friday okay?”

Part of the reason I’m here in Jamaica is to serve in the community. I think this will give me a deeper insight about life in Jamaica. I’ll get to understand on an intimate level some of the struggles that people go through. So stay tuned for those experiences.

Day Seven & Eight: Church and other stuff

 

Although the world may seem predominantly “Un-Christian-like” and there are many who practice different religions, there is no doubt that the predominant religion here is Christianity. There are churches everywhere, and they come in every size and style, from the cathedrals to the tents.

On Sunday I woke up very early, I decided to make breakfast for the first time- pancake with scrambled eggs. As I was in the process of getting ready for church, I was talking to a cousin on my father’s side who lives in Spanish Town, a city in St. Catherine. After sometime, she nicely informed me that she had to go get ready for church. For a second I was surprised by this. On top of the fact that I wouldn’t have had the time to talk to friends or family on a Sunday morning, more often than not, he/she would not have been going to church. Majority of the time, sundays are often used as a rest day. So yes I was a bit surprised, but then I shouldn’t be because things are done differently in Jamaica. In fact, in my opinion, if tourists want to get a sense of the Jamaican lifestyle church on Sunday morning (even as early as 7:30am) should be incorporated on the list of things to do.

Most people go to church, it’s just a part of the culture. Sundays you go to church, like on Saturdays you clean your house, go to the market and/or to the beach. It’s just the way it is. We left just after 10am and arrived at church before 10:30am. Praise and worship was going on when we arrived and we joined in. We were given visitors cards to fill out.  And during the service all the visitors were announced and asked to stand. Much the same as any church I’ve been to.

When service was done we decided to go grocery shopping. For a minute I thought nothing of this, but then realized that decades ago, absolutely nothing was open on a sunday! Businesses were closed because Sunday was considered a day of worship. Times have changed I see.

On the way to PriceSmart (which is exactly like a costco), we stopped to have coconut water from the actual coconut! Can you say refreshing!

Upon our arrival at home, tired and hot, my cousin’s wife and I sat on the floor where it was much cooler on the tiles while my cousin and his son were outside mowing the lawn, finishing up from the day before. Another great day, and it ended with me going for a long walk along the paths with my two younger cousins. A bonding day with everyone. I suppose going to church often have that effect on people.

A few observations I’ve noticed: Don’t people say ‘bye’ in Jamaica after a telephone conversation? No really? The first few days when I went out without my family, they called to check on me and somewhere in the conversation one of us left while one of us is still on the phone wondering, did my phone battery die? did I accidentally press a wrong button? But it hit me, when I was listening to a phone conversation and as I was observing, I noticed the phone removed from the ear and the conversation ended. Not a ‘talk to you later’, or  ”take care” or more commonly, “bye”. Is this a common thing?

Another observation which goes along well with the strong christian background of everyone. Most females on the street wear long skirts. I see many of the tour guides wearing these. And even while downtown, I would see people wearing them. Modesty is one character trait though of course, I’ve also observed the total opposite.

My new routine is to go jogging at 6am in the morning. This would never happen in Canada! When I returned from my one hour workout  I was given a glass of sinkle bible (Aloe vera) with orange juice to drink. “It’s really good for digestive systems” my cousin’s wife told me. She sat next to me with a glass of her own, still wearing her workout attire. I looked at the foam at the top of the yellow liquid in the glass, scringe my face and took a sip of the beverage and quickly gulped it down. I tried it again, and again. It wasn’t as bitter or slimy as I had thought. The next day I walked into the backyard and cut a long piece of sinkle bible myself to be prepared again. I was handed a piece by my cousin’s wife, “Rub it on your skin, it brings back elasticity in the skin” as she had already cut herslf a piece and now doing the same.

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I rubbed it everywhere: face, neck, legs, and hands.

I’m feeling really relaxed about being in Jamaica. The anxieties I was feeling are slowly going away. There is nothing to be afraid of, it’s just another country. I’m really looking forward to going to other parishes now….so stay tuned for those blogs. Some of those trips may be for mission work still I’m sure the experiences will be worth writing about.  Thanks for coming along with me on this journey so far. We’re now in week two!