Open Road Press

When the Path Ahead Seems Unclear

Have you ever reached a crossroads in your life? Taking a step down one path meant forsaking some other paths. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. And I’ve even been there on a bicycle–more times than once.

On our 2010 bicycle tour from coast to coast, Debbie and I encountered this phenomenon many times. The stakes always vary, but invariably they are never what you think they are. Even with well-defined bicycling maps, sometimes there is more than one option. And, clearly, there are more options than the map offers you.

We were in Lincoln, Montana, after fourteen consecutive days of cycling. Montana was new turf for us. Our next stop: Great Falls, and a day of rest. As much as 100 miles separated us from our intended destination. We couldn’t be sure because of a fork in the road after about seventy miles. On that particular day, we arrived at the fork in the road and instinctively diverted from the map to save some miles. We arrived in Great Falls at sundown after eighty-eight miles. I’m not sure we had the 100 miles within us.

During our rest in Great Falls, we faced another fork in the road. This one came with more long-lasting consequences. These two routes surrounded the massive Missouri River watershed. So, once we chose one, we would be stuck with it for days. We studied the maps closely, sought advice from those familiar with the region, considered what was important to us, and then made a decision. We soon discovered one of the most awesome and memorable stretches on our entire trip. Would the other route have worked? Would it have been better? We can only speculate.

Life is full of choices. We all have them. What college are you going to attend? Who are you going to marry? Which house or car are you going to buy? What job will you pursue? When will you retire? Or, simply, how will you get from point A to point B? There are many roads that will get you there. Some get you there quickly, but are heavily traveled and not very pleasant. Others may be temporarily under repair and necessitate a detour. Yet others offer beautiful scenery, but are riddled with hills, dangerously narrow surfaces, cracked pavement, or sharp, blind curves.

Bad decisions can be costly. They can cost you time, money, and heartache. They keep you from achieving your goals. Indecision can also cripple. As we write in Two Are Better, “If you dwell too much on potential problems, you will never make it out of your driveway!” When the path ahead seems unclear, we can talk to others with more experience, do our own research, or even test the waters for ourselves. But eventually, we must exercise some faith, step out of the boat, and forge ahead, recognizing that we can’t cover all the bases. Debbie and I choose to trust God with that which is beyond our control. There’s great peace and confidence in exercising some good judgment, making a decision, and leaving the results up to God.

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Update on our move to Tennessee: We recently encountered a detour, perhaps even a roadblock, in our recent plans to relocate to Tennessee. TheHopeLine had offered me a position on staff earlier this summer. However, the organization has encountered a significant and unforseeable disruption in their funding, causing the need to reduce an already modest budget. Consequently, we will continue with life in Marlborough, Massachusetts, for the foreseeable future.

As one wise pastor-friend put it, “Praise God that He’s sovereign and ruling and reigning in all of this, with no panic and no surprise regarding the outcome…. Thankfully, the story isn’t over regarding His purposes for you and Debbie, and He knows the plans He has for you.”

Debbie and I have been volunteer Hope Coaches for some time. We will continue to wholeheartedly support the work of TheHopeLine. Just two weeks ago, Debbie handled one of their some 1,100 suicide interventions thus far in 2012. A 15-year-old girl, without someone like Debbie on the other end, could see no hope. TheHopeLine reaches the hard to reach, which is just one of the reasons we endorse it.

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