Thursday, July 28, 2011

Using Logic in Life Decisions

This past semester the project manager of my research project was a senior who was graduating. He was a little lost in what he was supposed to do with life. Since I was a graduate student he had been working closely with—and theoretically respected—he came to me for advice on what he should do. Like any graduating senior he was faced with a choice: do I go out and get a job or do I go to grad school? And to add extra complication for him the grad school question broke down further: do I work in the Center for Space Systems or do I work in the ASDL? (Since he had offers from both). He was feeling quite lost and didn’t know what to do. So he asked me a lot of questions like “why did you chose to go to grad school?” and “why did you pick CSS over another group?”, etc.

So one day we were discussing this as we were walking somewhere (I have no idea where we were coming from or where we were going). I made the comment that for me, staying at Georgia Tech was an extremely hard decision. It went against all my emotions and gut instincts. I had been at Georgia Tech for four and a half years and the nomad in me could not allow for living somewhere that long. This was actually a huge deal for me.

So he asked, “Then why did you decide to stay at Georgia Tech, if you had such a strong feeling to the opposite?” I responded that I had made a pros and cons list and the pros of staying at Georgia Tech far outweighed the cons. The nomadic feeling was honestly my only con. And I recognized that this feeling was my messed up nomad brain trying to freak me out and make me run, when I should stay. The pros were just too great.

The boy looked at me with a completely stunned expression. He said, “You made a life decision using a pros and cons list? Using logic?”

I was baffled by his response and it took a lot of questioning to unwrap what he was actually saying. What was he saying? Well, we were both Christians and we both knew that. In his mind, God CAN NOT possibly speak to a person through logic. God speaks through feelings. So my feeling to run MUST have been from God. And the logical choice clearly wasn’t.

I could not believe I was hearing this from someone, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that many Christians think this is true. People expect conviction to be emotional, that God will bring you to tears. They expect people to be overcome with emotion and close their eyes while singing or dance to the music. They do not expect you to be sitting in your room studying your Bible and instead of being struck by sudden tear bringing conviction, saying “Huh. God seems to indicate in His Word that I shouldn’t do this. I should probably change my ways.”

How did this happen? How did we so disconnect God from logic? I’ll admit that God’s logic is not always our human logic, but God gave us brains for a reason. He gave me the ability reason. He gave me the ability to make decisions. And if I’m not hearing a voice from the heavens or seeing handwriting on the wall, I’m probably going to trust logic over my feelings when it comes to life decisions.

Because that nomad feeling? The feeling that I need to run and find a new place to live? That definitely wasn’t a God feeling. That was my brain. And I’m a logical enough person to realize where that feeling came from. It came from years of never living anywhere longer than four year. It came from frustration of not knowing how to maintain friendships past four years. It came from anger at the person I’d been labeled as—the person people saw me as—instead of the person I saw myself as.

And the logic? It made complete sense. And if I had not chosen to stay at Georgia Tech I would not be in this awesome job that was perfectly made for me. A job that I fit into like a hand in a glove. A job that I’m very certain God wants me to be in.

So please, do not disregard logic because you don’t believe God can use logic as easily as He uses emotions. God is all powerful. He can do anything. He can work through logic or emotion, pros and cons lists or strong feelings.

It’s sort of like being a Jedi (yes, I’m going geek on you here). Remember in the middle of the Empire Strikes Back? When Luke had that overwhelming feeling he should run off and save his friends? And Yoda was the voice of reason saying “Don’t do it!” Sometimes a Jedi is supposed to trust their feelings—just like a Christian—but this was a scenario where Luke should have listened to Yoda’s logic. Where logic would have yielded the response the Force (God in this metaphor) wanted.

So trust your feelings, Padawan. But remember that some emotions lead to the Dark Side.

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