Have you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book? These stories allow the reader to assume the role of the protagonist and make choices to determine the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcome.
I’ve always liked the concept for the adventure book style. Some titles in the genre have as many as forty possible endings for one plotline! Imagine if we could see our lives laid out before us, look at the trajectory of each option and then choose which perks to pursue and which pitfalls to avoid. How might we choose to end our story if we could see the whole picture?
If the path I choose doesn’t turn out ideally for the beloved characters or if the bad guy comes out on top, I can go back to the fork in the road for a do-over. I can skip ahead to the end or even put down the book and choose another if the current adventure leaves me unsatisfied.
Heroes and bad guys are easily recognized. Conflict and hard times end with variations of a neatly packaged happy ending. There is always a last page. My two hands can grasp a definitive beginning leading to the end of the story’s pages between dust jacket covers and concave book corners.
Theoretically for those who are planners, yours truly included, this sounds like a great way to live. To take control. Have all the answers. To know where the road will be straight, where it will wind. Or to have the option to detour away from congestion or construction delays.
Choosing Course-Altering, Life Decisions
How might major decisions about our careers, relationship status, and family size be different if only we could look at all possible outcomes before committing to a certain path or relationship?
- To see a preview of marriage with different partners. To marry or remain single?
- How to leave an imprint for the next generation? Will you have children or remain childfree?
- Should you work steady 9-5 jobs or pursue our passion even if our financial situation isn’t always stable?
- Will you seek God or make your own way?
Robots Don’t Feel Pain
We are not one-dimensional words on a page. Or pre-programmed robots. We were made to move freely. To live. And breathe. To pivot. Or to stand united. To love and lose. And open our hearts to love again.
Humans do not live in the vacuum of an author or filmmaker’s imagination. And therefore cannot control the plotline of the global metanarrative of humanity. We interact interdependently and our lives intersect with others at different junctures. We were created, not to be pets or servants, but to be in relationship with God and in community with others.
Pain magnifies true beauty. Imagine if we were each in charge of choosing our own destiny. Knowing the number of our days might lead some to live more intentionally. But many more into despair. Focusing on the when and how of our mortality is a dangerous place to dwell.
We are a species motivated by forward movement and achievement. Time this side of eternity won’t allow us to stay put.
Daily Decisions define Your Path
Arguably, our best option is to learn from our past and choose to keep moving forward. We can use the wisdom we gain from our errors, other’s offenses or poor examples to carve out a route forward. And while we don’t know the exact path of any given decision, there are daily opportunities to decide our next right thing.
Our stories are uniquely ours. Unscripted. Sometimes hardwon.
But always perfectly woven to make us the best version of ourselves.
Our individual narratives have purpose. Each one interwoven, contributes to the whole. Our identity and security are ultimately found through trials and triumphs, many of which we never saw coming. We don’t always have the final say. We are called to embrace the joys and the pains because together they build a worthwhile life.
Repetition Doesn’t Guarantee You’ll Get It Right
Inevitably we will get things wrong along the way. Consider Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. Murray’s character had so many opportunities to get the day just right. Yet, even when he knew what was coming he still made numerous mistakes as he tried to manipulate the reactions of others to create his own version of favorable outcomes. Initially, he was more motivated to get beyond that day, but over time he saw the beauty of experiencing the day fully. Like Bill Murray’s character, we have free-will. An ability to make decisions that move us forward or backward. To help or hurt others along our path.
However, real life is not so compact and rarely offers a do-over. But we can learn from our past. Hindsight is 20/20. We are free to change course if we don’t like the direction our lives are headed. Though it might not be an immediate pass to easy street, we can still advance. We can choose how to maneuver within our own life’s adventure.
Looking back on hasty prayers left unanswered and closed doors allows us opportunities to celebrate the unique adventure and beautiful encounters that might never have happened if we had copied, pasted, and piecemealed a life of our own desires together.
For more on choosing well throughout the adventure or your life check out this recent article: