Over the past few weeks, our 21 year old son has contemplated the most significant decisions of his life thus far. LtDan and I would like to think we've helped, but in truth we haven't, much - our boy has done it all himself and we stand by, like spotters at a gymnastic tournament. After years of providing guidance on things like the red shirt or the blue shirt? which book to read next? which summer job might make the most money? ... it's surreal to be in proximity to monumental life decisions. Wasn't this "boy" just experiencing waves of joy over his new game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, battling King K. Rool in Donkey Kong Country, and belaboring which pack of Pokemon cards to purchase?
The exceptional young man grappling with significant life choices is the main plot, and there is the subplot, where his mother takes hold, albeit with weak hands, of a new perspective on predestination and human will. As I considered what counsel to give him, my greatest and most obvious word was first to pray, but what came next surprised me: not to ask God to help him pick the "best" path, but to pay closest attention if he felt God saying, "Not this path."
I remember one golden fall Friday afternoon heading out from my college town to spend the night with my aunt and uncle. I was pampered and indulged, wrapped up in their warm hospitality with congenial conversation, a savory homecooked meal, and a fire in the fireplace. When Saturday afternoon came, I couldn't decide whether to go back to my dorm, new and exciting and full of possibilities, or stay one more night in a familiar and beloved home. The decision was supremely difficult - I wanted to do both, and both were equally enticing options. While I struggled with the decision, the seed was planted that sometimes - maybe all the times? - what matters isn't so much choosing one good choice over another good choice, but simply making a choice and going with it wholeheartedly.
It's exciting to stand with your child at a crossroad. And it's scary. And it's hard. Having been this far down my own road, I have perspective enough to see all the choices before him are good choices. But it's different, this standing at the fork of someone else's road - you can't make the choice for them. I've been at my own forks in the road. I know the inertia that swirls inside the fear of making the wrong choice. I understand the paralysis of not being fully in control of the outcome. My son walks through his days preoccupied, the weight of the decision evident in his bearing. Always, I've believed God leads us to make THE right choice. But as I watch my son consider the possibilities and the vastly different paths before him, I begin to sense that maybe God doesn't position an angel with a flashing arrow beside the "right" or "best" path because maybe there isn't one best and right-est path.
While the mother in me wants to guide, influence, and direct, the fellow-traveler on the road of life is intrigued to see which way he'll go, knowing how abundantly well equipped he is. As a parent, I want to say, "I know you can do any one of these things well. Tell me which one you want to do, I'm 100% behind you." From beside this fork in his road, I think maybe all the paths are good, and God says, "This is the path you want to take? Good! Move! Let's do this!"
I begin to see maybe that it isn't so much t h e path that's the important thing. No matter which path I choose, God will mold me into who He wants me to be. He promises to do that. Each road might bring me down the home stretch with different bumps and bruises, and different sets of victories, but the ultimate purpose is that life refine me into God's intended best version of me, wholly dependent on Him. His plan for me, and for all of us, is that we become as much like His Son as possible in our individual and unique version of humanity. Obsessing about choosing the "rightest" path - and it's terrifying opposite, chosing the "wrong" path - isn't necessary. It's really about evaluating which sights you want to see along the way, because God promises He'll finish the good work He began in each of us, whether we chose the road that goes over the mountain or the one that skirts around it. His promise remains constant, that He'll never leave me, nor forsake me; He'll always be with me whichever the path. He's going with me, and He'll use whatever path I take to get me to who He wants me to be.
There's a kind of fearless freedom in that … delightful room for creativity, for collaboration, and for adventure. And it makes watching your first-born consider those first few steps past the fork in the road not nearly so scary.