I'm not sure if it was something I was taught or if I came up with it on my own, but for years I believed that life was like a map that was marked with one of those yellow highlighters. The presumption was that there was one path that had been laid out for each person, and that the goal of life was to find and follow that one path.
On the one hand, it was terribly reassuring to know that there was actually a way to go. On the other hand, it was scary to think about what would happen if you strayed from your particular path. Even a small wrong turn would surely carry immense consequences.
I devoted great energy trying to follow my specified route. Whether it was articulated or not, I thought that staying precisely on the right road would bring success, an easy life, and (best of all) the pleasure of God. At the same time, I lived in dread fear of making a wrong turn. I knew that God could use even a wrong turn for his purposes - but I also knew intuitively that, with a wrong turn or two, life would never be as good as it could have been.
I don't see things that way anymore. I certainly believe that there are good paths to follow and that some decisions are clearly better than others. But I also believe that God sticks close even when we stray. Even more, it seems to me that God sometimes puts several options in front of us and invites us simply to follow our heart.
When I say that, I think of my optometrist. Instructing me to look through that funny contraption, he says, "Which is better? Number 1 or number 2?" And that leads to a whole series of choices: 2 or 3? 3 or 4? 4 or 5? Eventually, I get to a place where I can't tell the difference between two lenses. "They look exactly the same to me," I sheepishly say. He only sighs, "They aren't the same at all; surely you can see the difference." But I can't see the difference, and he is forced to settle on a prescription that will do the job. And maybe it isn't the perfect prescription. Still, it will allow me to see.
Of course, we all want to make the right choices. Hopefully, we do that from time to time. How much better, though, to live secure in God's love that is bigger than any choice we make: good or bad. How much better to know that his companionship is certain even when we have lost track of the highlighted yellow line.
Read carefully - and maybe read more than once - this stunning word of Margaret Silf:
God comes to us not where we should have been
if we had made all the right choices in life;
not where we could have been if we had taken
every opportunity that God offered us;
not where we wish we were if we didn't
have to be in the place where we find ourselves;
not where we think we are because our minds
are out of sync with our hearts;
not where other people think we are
or think we ought to be
when they are attending to their own agendas.
God meets us where we really are.
We can spend so much time thinking about where we should be, where we could be, where we wish we were, where we think we are, where other people think we are, or where other people think we should be.
How much better to find deep joy in the fact that God meets us exactly where we are.