How do we know the best route to take?
Heading across a snowy meadow and into the trees on the return loop, there were two trail options. But no signage.
I knew all routes led back to Mt. Bachelor, but I wasn’t sure which one was the shortest. And the shortest seemed the most important at the moment … because there was a thick cloud bank rolling in from the west.
It was one of those blue-sky days, and the snow had fallen powdery soft, and even with a writing deadline, the mountains were calling: Let’s do this!
I loaded up the gear, pointed my rig toward the mountains, and trekked from the base of Bachelor out to a frozen Todd Lake where fun was had by all (that would be me).
And now, heading back to Mt. Bachelor, which trail to take? And there was that pesky cloud bank.
So I chose one of the paths. And after a bit of trekking, it angled east.
But I wanted to go south. To Mt. Bachelor. And every time I caught a glimpse of the mountain through the trees, it kept scooting further away.
At one point I stopped. With the fog approaching, I wondered—just for a second—if I should turn around and take the other trail. Which obviously would have been the shorter distance.
Life is like that. Sometimes there are too many possibilities. And some with far-reaching consequences—which school to attend, what career to pursue, who to marry, what job to accept, to move or not to move.
Too many choices. When really, all we want is one option: the most expedient way.
Here’s the thing: God is faithful to direct the paths of His kids. Sometimes it happens through amazing opportunities that come about because of open doors or miraculous provision.
And then there are the slammed-shut doors. Which is also God’s leading. God’s faithfulness. God’s kindness. Even if it produces momentary disappointment, heartbreak, pain – still, God’s kindness.
What if we’re on a life’s path and a decision needs to be made, but there are no obvious open doors and no slammed-shut doors? Then what?
How I see it, there are three options:
1. Stay put.
Sometimes staying put—as we’re waiting for the next obvious step—isn’t a bad thing.
But if we camp out in that staying-put place because of our uncertainty, it can become a deadly thing. If I’d frozen in indecision on the trail, I’d have eventually … well, frozen.
2. Turn around.
Do a one-eighty and head back to the sure, the safe, the comfortable. Because we’ve been there, we’re familiar with that place.
But familiarity isn’t always for our best. Because so many worthwhile things in life will require taking a risk.
3. Move forward.
Moving forward without being able to see around the bend in the trail ahead — this is risky stuff.
Move forward anyway. Courage required.
What do we know to do today as we’re heading to our future? For starters, get out of bed. Show up for the people in our lives. Complete the scholarship application. Take the pilot test. Sign up for the sign language class. Deliver a meal to a bereaved neighbor. Submit the business plan, the homework assignment, the book proposal.
Which may involve rejection, humiliation, even failure.
But there is something far worse than rejection or humiliation or failure.
And that is, not realizing our purpose for being placed on this planet. Not pursuing adventure. Not opening our hearts to people. Not making a difference in our corner of the world.
Take the next step we know to take, no matter that fear and anxiety may be trying to bully us.
As it turned out, I made it back to my vehicle—otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this—and yes, I inadvertently chose the longer way around.
But it was also a gorgeous, exhilarating, life-affirming trek as I carried gratitude for my good health and mobility, for getting to live in this central Oregon with these majestic Cascades in my backyard.
This thought from Nick Frederickson resonates with me:
So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings.
What if we kept our hearts open to the next step, to new beginnings and new adventure? To the uncomfortable, the longer, more exhilarating, more challenging trail home?
I’m thinking we won’t regret it. At all.