Am I Doing It Right?

by guest blogger Katie Noah Gibson

That’s the question that has plagued me all my life.

I am a classic oldest child – organized, responsible, driven to excel. These traits came in handy as I competed in spelling bees and made straight A’s, and later as I learned to drive, plan my own travel, pay my own bills, and write research papers (of which I wrote plenty as I earned two English degrees). When I want to learn how to do something, I consult a book, to make sure I’m doing it right. And I’ve always tried to avoid the embarrassment caused by doing anything wrong.

For years, I applied this logic to my Christian faith, believing God had one perfect will for my life, and that I could discover and follow it, like a treasure map leading to some fabulous discovery. I attended a thousand (more or less) youth group meetings and camps where I heard about finding the right spouse, the right career, making the right choices to follow God’s calling for me.

This mindset led, understandably, to a lot of agonizing – and fear of making the wrong decision. Should I take this class or that one? Date that boy or this one (as long as they were both Christians)? Go to this Christian college or that one – though they stood less than two miles apart from each other?

Unfortunately, the fear of doing it wrong has often paralyzed me, preventing me from taking risks, making messes or enjoying new experiences. I’ve been so focused on doing it right that sometimes I forget the value of a messy, exciting life, lived with confidence and even joy.

A year ago, my husband and I made a cross-country leap, moving to Boston from West Texas. After months of thirsting for a fresh adventure, it felt like the right decision, the alluring “bend in the road” beloved by my heroine Anne Shirley. But during a long, cold winter that included record snowfalls and six months of unemployment for me, and as our list of friends in Boston remained stubbornly small, I began to wonder if we were doing it right after all.

I still wonder that, actually. Should we be living so far from our families and the friends we left in Abilene? Should we move somewhere less expensive so we can begin to save for a down payment on a house, and the eventual children we hope to have? Should I start writing that memoir now, instead of letting the story simmer awhile? Should I think about pursuing an MFA or a Ph.D., when many of my creative friends are doing so?

I don’t know the right answers to these questions – and I don’t know, honestly, if there are any. I’m starting to believe I could take one of several paths and still come out with a full, rich life. And on the spiritual side, I’m starting to believe God’s will looks less like a treasure map and more like the words of Micah 6:8:

“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

This verse sounds like a simple prescription for a good life, but it’s actually quite demanding – and often complicated. However, it does relieve some of the pressure to get every little thing right. Trying to be a certain kind of person – just, merciful, humble, loving – is much simpler than trying to make sure every single decision is the “right” one.

Do you struggle with getting things “right” – either in a spiritual sense or in a broader life sense? How do you deal with this big question, or quiet your inner critic?

About the guest blogger: I know Katie because we both attended Abilene Christian University and I somewhat inadvertently followed in her footsteps: she was an English major, I was an English major; she worked as an editor for our alumni magazine, I had the same job two years later; she attended Oxford-Brookes University for her M.A. in English; so did I, a year after her. I promise I’m not stalking you, Katie. But I guess I kind of am. Now, Katie lives with her husband near Boston. She freelance writes and edits and blogs at cakes, tea and dreams

No Comments

  1. Sadaf Shah on August 15, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I believe we are doing right if we feel peace from within. As far as I am concerned I leave everything in God’s hands and he has always directed me in a direction that has brought more peace and contentment. Just have faith in HIM, and things will never go wrong.

  2. Katie Axelson on August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve once heard it explained, that saying, “Should I do this or that?” to God is like a child standing with an apple in one hand and an orange in the other saying, “Mom, which snack should I have?” In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. God will use you at this university or that (or whatever the situation is).

    A fellow perfectionist English-major and name-sharer,

  3. Amy on August 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Drawing the conclusion of becoming a person of character: “just, merciful, humble, loving” sounds like you’re getting it right! I think your post resonates with most people who take the time to stop and ponder your question.

    I like the way Ruth Haley Barton, in Sacred Rhythms, talks about attending to inner feelings of consolation and desolation in the context of our daily lives. Her chapters on Examin and Discernment have been helpful to me during times of seeking direction.

    I may print your post to share with a class tomorrow night as we are discussing this very topic. 🙂

  4. Emily on August 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Oh, I love this. This is one of my favorite things about God! I think Christ gives us glorious freedoms here. In giving us the Bible, he has given us the freedom to walk within a set of parameters, with the promise that those parameters are there for our good and His glory. So within that– meaning, if I come to a fork in the road, and both my options are within the commands of God– anything goes! How amazing, right?! God isn’t sitting around hoping we’ll make the right decision– because thankfully, His glory isn’t about us. It’s about Him. He will be glorified and magnified and victorious through us even in our sin. And He has given us fantastically engineered, albeit limited brains, to allow us to make wise decisions while still needing to rely on His power to carry us through the outcome. I just love this.

    And I totally identify with the oldest-child symptoms, too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Cathy Canaceli on August 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Hi Katie and Andrea!

    This is so for me! Thank you for sharing!

    I agree that “not wanting to make mistakes” is paralyzing. It made me afraid to make decisions, fearing I could take a wrong step and mess it all up.

    But yeah. This is so true. I`ve also heard from a pastor recently that God allows us to do anything except for those things He says we shouldn`t. It made me braver and reminded me to just enjoy the life He gives. And making His plan work is not my job, but His. 😉

    God bless!

  6. Marie-Eve on September 2, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I love you guys have the guts for this series. I’ve found it because I want to do a complex blog post and render it right.

    Am I doing right? I try to do that by staying true to my heart, listening to doubts but staying true to my goals. But most of all recently I’ve just come up with a feeling that we’re at the right place at the right time if we do so.

    Looking forward for your next posts about hard topics.

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