Blowing In the Wind

During a recent business trip, the nerd in me bought the book, “Algorithms to live by,” because I was fascinated by its first chapter, titled “Optimal Stopping”. The problem statement is likely familiar to anyone who has ever taken a road trip. It goes something like this … imagine yourself on such a road trip from Miami to Boston and you need to stop to get a bite to eat. But you won’t settle for any old rest stop, you are looking for the best place to eat. The signs approaching each exit declare what’s available. As you scan the signs, you feel you need to try your luck at the next exit. Maybe that one will have your favorite diner. Soon you are at the next one, it has something like your favorite diner, but it isn’t quite the one you were looking for. You decide to go for one more, and one more, and one more. Soon you’ve passed many a mile and see a sign that says your next food exit is 50 miles away and you slap yourself for not having picked one of the diners you had passed.

This problem appears in many other situations of daily life. How do you pick the best offer if you are selling your home? How do you choose your life partner? How do you choose the best parking spot? How do you strike that balance between deciding and searching forever? As it turns out under certain prescribed conditions, there is a “perfect” algorithmic solution, a formula for certainty! But the question is – should we live our lives by a formula? Is certainty all its touted to be?

The Certainty We Crave

So, imagine living a life where you are never confident about the decisions you make; where you are always in doubt about whether you have decided wisely or if you have made a rash decision; whether you have considered all the pros & cons; whether you missed out on some critical detail; whether you should have waited for some more time for that better option. I was such a person for the longest time.

From the smallest indecision about what to have for breakfast to the biggest decisions of my life, personal or financial, I have constantly struggled with wanting to make the perfect choice. I do realize, given the universe of choices and outcomes, that there isn’t such a thing as a perfect choice. Had I known of the above formula in those days, I may have blindly applied it and lived in the false comfort that my life and choices were in my control. That I had certainty.

Moreover, this was never a question of choosing between good and evil. That was easy. If you chose the good, then you pat yourself on the back. If you chose the evil, you knew it was evil and rationalized your choice. Isn’t it? The difficulty was about making a choice when the choices that presented themselves to you all appeared to be morally good. But appearances can be deceiving? Afterall, if they were all morally good, couldn’t I have picked any one of them?

Then, what was the real struggle? I believe it was a consciously rationalized desire of gaining a pre-defined outcome, without leaving the security of my comfort zone. This could be something as simple as spending time at work to support your family versus taking your child to the ball game. It could be a decision that isn’t as simple, such as uprooting your family, giving up a career, and a settled-in life, to take care of your aging parents many miles away. It was my father-in-law who once clued me in to the secret. Here’s what he said, and I paraphrase, “Make your decision and surrender it to the Lord, and you’ll be at peace”. What???

The Wind Blows Where It Wills … And So, It Is with Anyone Born of the Spirit

I never understood this when I first heard it from him. I did try it out a few times. When the opportunity arose, I made my decision, surrendered it to the Lord and waited for that sense of peace. Nothing! I had seen him do it. He seemed to always be at peace. No matter what crisis or decision at hand, he radiated that peace, and he has had to make some tough decisions in his life.

So, what was I missing? That’s when I read John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit”. The image that came to my mind is of a dried-out leaf blowing in the wind. There isn’t much weighing down that leaf and thus, it floats going where the wind wills it. As it does so, it suffers no damage. It lands here, rises again, moves to another location, stays there a while, flies again, all the while powered by the wind.

I didn’t need an exact algorithm or formula to make my decisions and it took me many years to grasp what my father-in-law was trying to tell me, “When you are unsure about a bevy of choices, even after having done all the prudential analyses to weigh their pros & cons, look inside your heart and you’ll know that you already know what the right choice is. It is usually the one you are trying to avoid. The one that takes you out of your comfort zone. The one you’ve been trying to rationalize away. It is usually the difficult one. But, if you are honest with yourself in that moment, you’ll know with unescapable precision that it is the right one.  Make your decision then, and surrender it to the Lord, and a sense of peace will descend on you. When you feel that sense of peace, you’ll also get that certainty that only comes from the Lord, that you made the right decision”.

No formula! A different kind of certainty! I believe that we always know, in our hearts, what the right choice is. The Lord knows this about us because he created us in his love. So, He also knows exactly how much we struggle with making that choice. He knows just how much we like to be in control.

Adam did this in the Garden when he ate that apple. The moment he decided to wrest that control from the Lord God, all was lost. I made the worst choices in my life when I likewise took control of my life away from my Lord. So, when we finally make the right choice, He loves us, the more, for it. Not that He loves us any less if we didn’t.

When I surrender a choice or decision to Him, I am also letting Him work out all the details of where He is going to take me from that moment on. This is the beatitude of poverty of spirit. When I forgo ego, give up my pride, lose my fear of losing control, and surrender to the Lord, then in my “poverty”, I suddenly become rich in the Lord.  When I throw my carefully crafted caution to the wind, the wind blows me where it wills and takes me where it wills. I may rise high, I may fall to the ground, I may be taken to places I do not wish to go, but I am always the richer for it, I am never harmed by it.

As counter-intuitive, foolish, and impractical as this may seem from a worldly point of view, it is only in making the difficult choice and surrendering to the Lord that I could always be certain that I was also making the perfect choice. Amen.

Author’s note

My apologies to you, dear readers. Due to unavoidable personal circumstances, I was unable to post in April or May. But the Lord is magnanimous, and his ways are mysterious. I wrote a portion of this post back in April, and it took the experiences of the last three months to make this experientially concrete. As is often the case with surprises from my Lord, the readings for the April 9th and June 9th couldn’t have been more apropos for this post. On the downside, this post is twice as long as my usual ones. I beg your indulgence for mine.

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G K Zachary

I am G. K. Zachary and I write, with my family, about our Catholic faith at We believe that the Lord is continually refining us, through the simple events of our daily lives, our trials and tribulations, our fleeting moments of happiness and long-suffering sorrows. It is in those moments that we learn just how present He is in our lives, guiding us, comforting us, softening our hardened hearts. Thus, we feel compelled to write about what God teaches us, through these ordinary life experiences, in the humble hope it might lead you, through your faith, into that extraordinary eternal life in Him. May your life bear fruit for the glory of His name. Amen. I can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Jerry DeMelo on June 10, 2024 at 12:11 am

    crazy great. I love the idea of a leaf in the wind. Thanks Zach. You did it again!

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