As a kid, I had a lot of those choose-your-own adventure books that were popular in the mid 80s. After dark, I’d find a flashlight, crawl under the covers, and steel myself to begin a new adventure.
But before I’d start the story, I’d quickly review the warning message on the first page. Here’s how it read: “WARNING!!!! Do not read this book straight from beginning to end. The adventures you take are a result of the choices that you make. Remember, you cannot go back. Think carefully before you make a move! One mistake can be your last… or it may lead you to fame and fortune!”
I’d feel my heart start to race. My palms became sweaty. I considered the fame and fortune that awaited me, yet I cautiously turned the page with the single goal of not wanting to die on page one.
In no time, I’d get to a decision point at the bottom of the page, presenting me with two options. It would read something like, “If you want to search the old abandoned house, turn to page 12. If you want to search around the lake, turn to page 17.” I’d stare at the decision, frozen, trying to weigh the pros and cons of either choice with the knowledge and experience of an eight-year-old boy.
Ultimately, I’d end up falling through a trap door and stuck inside that creepy old abandoned house or I’d find myself on a raft, realizing it wasn’t a lake, but a river, and I was headed for a waterfall.
Over thirty years later, I still tend to see important choices that I have to make through the eyes of that kid staring at a decision point on the page. I’ll weigh the pros and cons of my two choices. If it’s a big decision, I’ll imagine what life will be like a year, two years, five years down the road based on whichever option I choose. I’ll pick Missy’s brain for sage advice. And of course, I’ll pray.
It wasn’t until recently that I found an old choose-your-own-adventure book. I dusted off the cover, opened it up, and stared at that dreaded warning message that used to cause me so much grief.
As I read, my heart started racing and my palms became sweaty, but I stopped and did a double-take when I realized there was actually more to that warning message on the first page that I overlooked as a kid. This was the rest of it: “YOU and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story. You must use your numerous talents and much of your enormous intelligence. There are dangers, choices, adventures and consequences. But, don’t despair. When you reach the end, YOU can go back and make another choice, alter the path of your story, and change its result.”
I had never read those last sentences as a kid. I knew it was just a book and I could go back and change things for the better if I wanted to. I just didn’t think it was following the rules if I did.
As adults, we know that life is just one big choose-your-own adventure story, yet we believe the lie that we can’t go back and make another choice to alter the path of our story and change its result.
Instead, we make decisions based on future expectations that may or may not ever happen instead of choosing the best choice for us right now, today, in this moment and season of our lives.
If you’re at a crossroads, use your enormous intelligence, say a little prayer, and make a choice.
And if your current path led you astray, don’t despair. Go back. Make another choice, one where you’ll use your numerous talents for good. It’s not too late to alter your story and change its result.