You know how, sometimes, when you’re talking with a friend for a long time, you can end up talking about something so random, so unrelated to your original topic that you can’t help but say, “How on earth did we get HERE?”
I love trying to think back and remember which rabbit trails and diversions landed us smack in the middle of, “Remember that time we took the road trip and lost your car?” when we started the conversation with, “How’s the family?” It’s as fun as working backward to figure out when I first met a friend or started reading a blog or heard about something or someone that used to be new.
It’s interesting and kind of fun to see how one twist, one turn can so drastically change a conversation, a relationship, a life.
Did you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I did. Loved them. But I’m not sure I read them the way they were designed to be read.
See, every time I had to make a choice, I either dog-eared the page (sorry, librarians) or simply kept my finger in that spot. That way I could go back after reading one scenario and see what would happen if I took that other road. I liked keeping my options open.
Who am I kidding? I still like keeping my options open.
After working in my first post-college job for nearly a year, I left to start graduate school. But after one semester I knew that program wasn’t right for me at that time, and I resigned my assistantship. My former employer hadn’t replace me yet, so after what I jokingly referred to as my sabbatical, I returned to my job.
I’d kept my finger in that spot and went back for a do-over.
So many times since then I’ve wondered about that string of decisions. Should I have finished graduate school? I never ended up earning my master’s degree, after all. Should I have resisted the temptation to return to my job I loved so much? It was never the same after that.
Later I left the ad agency I worked at for a supposedly better position at another, supposedly better agency. It WAS a good job at a good company – but it wasn’t for me. My manager was amazing – brilliant, hardworking, on her way up, and willing to mentor young women like myself. I could see that if I stayed there, learning about things I wasn’t interested in and working more hours than I was paid for, I would become just like her.
That wasn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I truly wanted for my life. Later, when I was laid off from what I thought would be my dream job full of meaning and accomplishment and work-life balance (is that even a thing?!), I wondered if maybe I’d gotten it wrong.
I could worry myself down that track for all sorts of experiences.
What if I hadn’t joined my friends for that church plant (that failed)?
What if I hadn’t shared my heart with that friend who misunderstood me?
What if we hadn’t bought this house? Or opened that credit card?
What if we hadn’t taken that trip? Or started that project?
But the thing is . . . life isn’t a choose your own adventure story. We don’t get to go back, to do life over, to change our minds, to choose a different adventure.
Or . . . can we?
Well, not exactly. We can’t turn back the clock, change history, or – in most cases – get back that job we gave up. We can’t spend our lives regretting our choices, wishing we’d chosen other paths, longing for do-overs.
Life is no choose your own adventure book.
But our God promises to forgive our pasts, our mistakes, our sins. And then? His mercies are fresh – brand new – every morning. And we can rest easy in the peace of a God who has plans – good plans – for us, a God who removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.
And then? Then we can be still and ask Him, “What’s our next adventure?”
By Mary, who’s spending the 31 days of October giving up on fairy tales – even the kind where you choose your own ending.