What if life was a choose your own adventure book? What if you could see paths clearly? What if you could follow the story lines all the way to end before you took your first step? Would you do it?
I’d like to think that I would be content with a choose your own adventure sort of set up. That in seeing clearly which paths I could take, I would somehow absolve myself of any pain or rough patches. That knowing what lay ahead would make life easier.
I’d really like to think I would be content with that. But how would knowing the end make me live in the middle?
Or what it life were like the common first grade writing practice of the “fortunately/unfortunately” story? It goes something like this:
Fortunately, I earned my allowance this week. Unfortunately, I lost most of it. Fortunately my brother lent me a few dollars. Unfortunately, he wanted me to pay it back with interest.
In these grade school stories students can easily show the pros and cons of a character’s actions and life circumstances. What if life looked like this? In this version of life every circumstance or action could be neatly placed in a positive or negative box.
At least in this scenario the boundaries are clear. Something is either fortunate (for me) or unfortunate (against me). Sometimes I think this would be an easier path-clear cut, black and white-life’s circumstances and my choices are either good or bad.
Alas, as much as I would like to live in a world where the paths are clear and readable all the way to the end and the consequences are easy to spot, I am challenged by living a life that is much more gray, more muddled, more messy.
But is it, though? Is it that much more gray, more muddled, and more messy?
Several years ago, through a Beth Moore Bible Study on the book of Esther, I was asked to put this idea of a gray, muddled, messy life to the test.
Beth Moore posed this statement: If ______________, then ______________.
If (insert worse fear), then (what).
Notice she didn’t pose a question. She didn’t say if your worst fear comes true, then what does the rest of the path look like. She didn’t say if the worst thing you can think of happens, then what are the consequences? She posed a statement.
Then she clarified it: If your worst fear happens, then God. Period. Not question mark.
At the time, I scoffed.
My line of thinking went something like this, “Whatever, Beth Moore. I know you have a lot of Bible studies and teachings under your belt, but what do you really know about my life, about my reality? It’s not that easy, ‘If _______, then God.’ It’s just not.“
My scenario went something like this, If Matthew comes home from Afghanistan all messed up either physically, or mentally, or both, then I will have to take care of him. I will have to find help. I will have to shoulder the burden. I will…. I will…I will…
Nowhere in my line of thinking did I include Beth Moore’s response. In fact, I only included myself.
And for a few years I did only include myself on the “then” side of the equation. And I was miserable. Life was gray, muddled, and messy. I wasn’t asking for help. I was shouldering all the burden. And I for sure wasn’t letting God handle things.
But here’s the funny thing about God, He could care less if I thought I could do it on my own. He was always there.
When my worst fill-in-the-blank scenario came true He was there. And when other worst case scenarios I hadn’t even dreamed of came up, He was there too. He wasn’t just there to hang out either, He was there to rescue. To offer me a way out of the hell that is my own best thinking. He offered me a way to put all the manipulating, martyring, mothering, and managing away-to take my hands off the outcomes.
If this were a choose your own adventure story the next path to take would be the one with GRACE written on its “This way” sign. And it would be the only path offered, for the rest of the book.
If this were a fortunately/unfortunately story, the next page would read, “Fortunately, the answer is always, ‘then God.’” And all the unfortunatelys would fall away.
When I survey the story that is my actual life, it’s clear that the grace of God, is the path I have walked on even when it didn’t “feel” that way.
That in God’s infinite kindness, He already had all road signs pointing to Him and all the unfortunatelys answered by, fortunately, “then God.”