A friend of mine wrote a blog post in January confessing the shocking truth that much of parenting is Winging It. This week, I am reminded how much of life is about the ability to make it up as we go along.
Growing up, I waited desperately for a cosmic sign telling me what I was supposed to do with my life. (And more than just the direction of my life, all of my life’s choices.) I did all of the things that good Christian youth are encouraged to do: read my Bible (all the way through, 3 years in a row); prayed regularly; attended church and youth group and every other church activity. Still no great revelation.
I looked to the brave world of standardized testing for clues. I took an aptitude test that told me I would make an ok (69%) microbiologist and an even better (72%) brewmaster. Neither of those were particularly attractive options.
I went to college with an undecided major, got married (clearest choice of my life!), and then, after a year and a half of marriage, the lightning bolt struck and I knew without a doubt what I needed to do for the rest of my life.
There have been times when I absolutely knew the right path. But what does one do in between the lightning bolt moments? And what if they never come?
I feel that my husband and I were able to navigate those challenges successfully because of a larger framework that guided our lives. We had determined together to be disciples of Jesus and to live our lives in Love. Everything else was pretty much up for grabs.
Our primary focus is to meet each day, each decision and challenge within that framework of love. This is something anyone can do (even without a lightning bolt to guide them).
That doesn’t mean that decision-making is suddenly easy. It isn’t. We still struggle sometimes, and we’ve been walking this path together for more than 15 years. What it does accomplish, though, is removing the pressure.
If every decision has a correct cosmic answer, then the wrong one surely has cosmic consequences. When we realize that most of the time even the most divinely centered person we know has to make it up as they go in everyday life, it frees us to make choices in peace.
“Do we use disposable diapers or cloth?”
“Do we buy a house or rent?”
“How do we educate our children? Public? Private? Homeschool? Boarding School (Yes, still an option. And yes, tempting sometimes)”
“Do I work for someone else, or start my own business?”
“Do I buy the Camry or the Focus?”
“Do I order the ham sandwich or the ceasar salad?”
Not that these questions can’t be answered with lightning bolts, they certainly can. But for many (if not most) people, these are questions we have to answer ourselves based on how to best love our families, our neighbor, our God. We can make these decisions based on the facts with a clear conscience.
So if you are struggling with what to do next, where to go from here, or even where to begin, start by determining your larger framework. What is important to you? What are the major components of your life? How can you best honor these as you consider your decision? Then make your choice freely.
For some that might mean delaying college while working and saving until the path becomes more clear or passions emerge. For some it might mean staying in a job that isn’t particularly thrilling in order to provide stability for a young family. For others it might look like taking a risk, a step of faith, uncertain of the outcome.
The beauty of a universe filled with infinite possibilities is that none of our lives have to look like anyone else’s lives. Live your life in Love. Listen to the Lightning Bolts. Make the rest up as you go.