It’s hard to believe that four weeks have passed since I was released from my job at Lake Ann Camp. It feels like months and months have passed, yet the reality of an uncertain future continues to loom right in front of us, and the emotional cycle of loss continues to play out throughout each member of our family. Last night, my son AJ was really wrestling with justice and fairness, and the distortion of both in this life. Hard questions for a 13-year-old to process. Hard questions for a 13-year-old’s parents to process. Part of the challenge we’re working thru is unpacking the heartache, while living under a pressing deadline to find a new home, a new job and a place where we can heal. Emotionally we’re pretty drained, yet we have to press thru this season in order to finish the immediate tasks in front of us (work...home...job...). In one sense, there is no rest when we need rest the most. Have you ever felt like that?
On top of that, we’re trying desperately to find the path that God would have for us next. Neither Traci or I want to simply take a job because it has been offered, or to interview for some ministry just to make sure we have something ready to go. That’s the safe option, but we’re both very eager to be on the best path for our lives, for our family and for our future (short term AND long term).
But finding the right path can often be a challenge.
I don’t believe the idea that there is just one right path for everyone to take, and if you mess it up, you throw off the whole cosmos. Sometimes I’ll hear high school or young college students talking about finding the right spouse, as if there is only one correct choice. Think about that for a second. If there is only one right choice and you marry the “wrong” the person, you pretty much screwed up marriage for everyone. After all, if you married the wrong person, then your spouse married the wrong person, which means the person they were supposed to marry, will now marry the wrong person, and the person you were supposed to marry, will marry the wrong person, which mostly likely mean the wrong kids will be born and will marry other wrong kids and just a few generations later, no one can marry the right person. Nice work.
The same is true for most of our choices: there isn’t just one right answer, but God gives us opportunities and freedom to make choices. Some options are certainly better than others, and God promises to help us find those options. Choosing a “less-good” option isn’t a sin, and certainly doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us, or is somehow punishing us. Lets face it, all of us have made poor choices in our lives that we’d love to take back or have another chancer to do over.
Let me be clear that I’m not talking about freedom to sin. Of course we have freedom to sin, but sinful choices are always wrong choices. If I suddenly decide to follow the path of a contract killer, you have my permission to call me out (though I’d be careful with that according to my vocation...) and tell me it’s a wrong choice. If Traci and I decide divorce because the strain of this season has become too difficult, you have my permission to call me out. If I choose to make friends at the local bar and become a drunk in order to deal with the embarrassment of being fired, you have my permission to slap me silly. Those are all wrong choices (that are also very bad options for my life!).
No, I’m talking about the choices that pertain to a particular path, where the road forks left and right, and you have to pick a direction. Traci and I are at a major fork in the road, and there are, literally, dozens of options. I honestly believe that any one of them is available for us to pursue and see where it leads, but we desire to pick the path that will play to our strengths, the path that will ultimately take our experiences and use them for the greatest good. Have you ever been there? Have you ever asked yourself, which path is right?
The answer, in one very non-comforting sense, is that they are all right. Truly, God gives us options all the time, every day, and you and I have freedom to take either the left or right fork. My pastor was preaching on Micah 6:8 yesterday, and said it this way: If your choices fit the criteria of Micah 6:8, then you have freedom to make any of those choices. Micah 6:8 is the holy triad of God’s expectations for His children:
“But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
and don’t take yourself too seriously -- take God seriously.” (The Message)
Do justice. Act mercifully. Follow God. If the paths before you allow you to do those three things, then I believe you can follow any of those paths! In one very real sense, that brings such a relief and freedom to our choices and our futures.
Fine-tuning that search, though, requires a deepening faith in God. Rather than throwing a dart at the target to see which right option it hits, we want to pick the best option for who we are, and for who God ultimately wants us to be. After four weeks of evaluating my time here, I’m fully convinced it was a right choice to come here, AND that it was the best choice God had given us. The outcome wasn’t what Traci and I had imagined, but we still believe it was the best choice at the time we made it. That’s a hard pill to swallow: That God actually wanted us to experience this part of the journey, in order to prepare us best for the next part. But it’s a good pill to swallow!
That’s why Psalm 143:8 continues to be such an encouragement to us: “...make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” God will help us find, not just a right path, but the very best path for our lives. Notice I didn’t say “easiest” path or “funnest” path, instead, Traci and I are eager to find the path that will most stretch our faith in making us more and more the people God wants us to be.
And so we are glad to be where we are, even in the tears, frustration, anger, sadness and doubt. Wrestling with the past, while trying to tackle the current array of options, is precisely where we are supposed to be. Trusting the hand of God as He leads us forward is so much better than trying to figure out all the answers to the past, and in doing so, we’re finding ourselves in the sweet spot of our Savior’s leading.
“Walking on water”, in faith, isn’t easy, or all 12 disciples would have gotten out of the boat in Matthew 14. But trust me, you’ll never be the same once you do. By God’s grace, we’ll stay out of the boat and on the waves with Jesus and when we do, we’ll be on -- not just the right path, but -- the very best path for our lives!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!