I was on my way home to Orlando. I left Tucson in the morning to catch a flight to Las Vegas where I would board my connecting flight to Orlando. I sat in my middle seat, my insides trembling. I’ve never been a good flyer. For as long as I can remember, flying has always been scary to me. Only when a flight is completely smooth do my nerves calm down—but I’m always waiting for the next bump. The Tucson to Vegas flight was only an hour, but to me it was an hour of terror. I became so panicked that I turned to my wife sitting next to me and said, “I’m not getting on the next plane. I don’t care how much it costs, we’re renting a car and driving home.” My poor wife, seeing the condition I was in, readily agreed.
After getting the car and beginning our drive the tension began to ease. But it was a good hour or two before I started to relax, yet something else began to eat away inside of me. The rental car cost over $500 for the trip. That’s the cost of a four-hour flight home, but my drive would take me four days. I was beginning to kick myself in the rear. I had made a decision that I thought was good, that I thought was good for my mental health. But it was beginning to backfire, and in a huge way. You see, the airline could not give us our luggage, so it went ahead of us to Orlando. Meanwhile, I would not have my medicines for my bipolar disorder. Within just over a day I started going through withdrawal. As we drove out of the hotel in Amarillo, Texas I pulled up at a stop light and suddenly, without any warning, I had the urge to vomit. Instantly, I became light headed. My chest began to hurt. At first I thought I ate something bad at the hotel breakfast. It didn’t occur to me that I might be suffering withdrawal. But sure enough, that’s what it was. For the next four days I sat in the passenger seat while my wife drove us across the country. I felt so terrible I wanted to die. At the same time, without my meds to control mania, my thoughts began swirling around my decision to abandon the flight home. Inside I was raging with anger; the kind of anger I haven’t experienced since I began taking medication over six years ago. I treated my poor wife like dirt. We were racking up hotel bills, food, gas. I knew by the time it was over I’d have around $1,500 of debt I didn’t want and all because I couldn’t control my fear. I had a lot of apologizing to do.
One decision. That’s all it took. What I thought would be a decision that would protect my mental state and my emotions turned into a five day nightmare and my wife, my will, and my wallet suffered for it.
Just one decision.
Have you ever made a decision like that? You know the type. It’s the decision to do something that you think will be good or benefit you in some way and it quickly turns into a disaster. The decision, at first, may seem sound, but it can turn on you in an instant. My situation did just that, and it reminded me of a recent study I did on the life of Lot.
You remember Lot. He was Abraham’s nephew that went with him into the land of Canaan. When the land that Abraham and Lot were sharing didn’t seem to be enough to support both of their herds and families, Abraham offered Lot a solution. “Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’ And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:8-13).
Now, we wouldn’t blame Lot for his decision, would we? He was only looking out for the best for his family and herds. However, Lot knew one thing. He knew the reputation of Sodom. This is why the scripture mentions how wicked the men of Sodom were. I think Lot had good intentions. But sometimes good intentions can lead us away from where we should go. Notice that the writer says that, “Lot journeyed east.” Throughout Moses’ writings in the Old Testament, moving east is always a symbol of punishment, banishment, or living a life that has some measure of rebellion against God. “Lot journeyed east.”
What happened to Lot? Rather we might ask, “What didn’t happen to Lot?” It wasn’t long before Lot moved from the field into the city of Sodom. He became a person of influence and wealth as he was one who sat at the city gate with the other community leaders. His home was not attached to other homes as most homes in Sodom were at that time, signifying his status and wealth. The scripture says that when the men of Sodom came to attack that they “surrounded” the house (Genesis 19:4).
After the Lord destroyed Sodom and gave Lot a chance to escape, his wife turned back and became salt. He lost his wife. Thinking they were the only people left, Lot’s daughters plied their father with alcohol and committed incest with him. Not only had Lot moved to Sodom, but Sodom had moved into his family.
One decision was all it took. One decision to go down a path based upon what he could see and what he thought might be good, but it turned into a disaster that destroyed his family and left him with nothing, along with a reputation in scripture that would be read for thousands of years as a man who lost control and destroyed everything of value to him.
Just one decision.
How do you know that the decision you have made, or perhaps are about to make, is truly a good one? When Abraham offered a choice of the land what did that choice leave Abraham? It left him the desert. Yet, Abraham trusted God with his life, not seeking the best for himself. In doing so he honored God and God’s response to Abraham was simple. Abe, you think you got the raw end of the deal? “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:14-15).
In my case, I let fear control my decision making process. I’d flown that scared many times, but this time I hit my limit. I should have done what I had always done before, push through it, endure it, and move on. Here are three points of application that I hope will help you.
First, do not let fear control your decision making—unless your decision will cause you self-harm or death. Fear can be a good thing if it warns us of harm and the harm is reasonable to believe as true. My fear was not reasonable. Do you know how many planes crash because of turbulence? Only one flight out of 10 million in a 10 year period. I’d say those are pretty good odds. My fear was real fear, but it was based upon a fiction.
Second, be willing to endure a little pain for a big pay off instead of a lot of pain that carries a big pay out. I asked the Lord to remove my fear. He didn’t do it. That’s because I had something important to suffer and learn through the experience. It was a hard lesson, but I learned it. Will I ever fly again? Yes. But I’m going to get some help in terms of dealing with my fear. Think about how things could have been. I could have avoided all of these troubles if I had only endured the four-hour flight home, fear or no fear. Instead, I made things far worse. Lot made things far worse by choosing to dwell toward Sodom. It wasn’t long before that choice proved disastrous.
Third, If you have chronic fear of something, get help. If your fear is controlling you then you are not in control at all. See a doctor, get medicated, get counseling; do whatever you must do to conquer that fear or at least learn how to handle it so it doesn’t control you.
Lastly, whenever you make a decision, especially big life-changing decisions, try to look ahead at the possibilities and consequences that choice can bring. Lot looked only to what he could get from going for the best in the land. He didn’t think of the influence that Sodom might have on his life and his family. As best as you can, try to look ahead and consider what your options might lead you to do later. We can’t see the future, but we can carefully reason what the future might bring.