Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was eight years old, I was addicted to a series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  Choose Your Own Adventure books cast the reader as the main character of the story, allowing you to choose between different paths at critical moments in the plot.

You’re walking down a dark corridor when suddenly a secret door opens in the wall to your right.  If you’d like to go through the secret door, turn to page 43.  If you’d like to continue down the corridor, turn to page 59. 

What a cool experience to be dropped right into the middle of the action and get to shape the plot yourself.  Of course, the best part is that you could cheat.  If I went in that secret room and fell into a pit of vipers, you can bet I would flip back a few pages and make a better choice. 

If only real life worked that way, right?   Could you imagine?   Your boss’ wife drops by the office one day and you notice she looks pregnant.  If you want to keep your mouth shut, go to page 72.  If you want to kiss up to your boss and ask her when she’s due, go to page 24.

On page 24 you discover she’s actually not pregnant and you’ve just made a total fool of yourself and given your boss further evidence of your incompetence.  No problem!  Just flip back a few pages and choose to remain silent.  No harm, no foul, right? 

I can’t tell you how many times I would love to use the old Choose Your Own Adventure flip back and redo my last choice trick.   But, unfortunately, I haven’t quite figured out how to do that one yet.   

The worst thing about making choices, at least the bigger ones that matter, is that they feel so final.  You take the new job and immediately learn why the last guy left.  You buy the new car and realize you’ve been ripped off.  You wake up the day after your wedding and think, “Is this really the one?”

If we’re not careful, we can waste much of lives regretting our bad choices or paralyzed by the fear of making a wrong decision in the future.  Have you ever put off making a decision to the point where the decision was made for you?  Someone else bought the house, got the girl or took the job? 

Decisions, decisions.  What was God thinking when He gave us free will?     

Here is the great news, though.  Yes, our choices have consequences.  Yes, we reap what we sow.  But the reality is that every day you have breath in your lungs, your life is still a choose your own adventure story.   The choices you make today allow you to shape all of your tomorrows. 

The reason God gave us free will is that He loves and respects enough to allow us to navigate our destinies, but this journey comes with grace.  

In other words, the cement is still wet on the sidewalk of your life.  Nothing is set.  You can’t redo wrong choices from the past, but you can learn from them.   And I would challenge you to rethink some of the things you label as bad choices. 

Took the wrong job?  So, what?  Work hard anyway and who knows what opportunities will open up.   This wrong job may be the very door that leads to your dream job.  At least it will help you appreciate a better job when it comes your way. 

Think you married the wrong person?  What would happen if you started treating them like the right person?  What if instead of looking for “the one” somewhere out there, your love helped them become “the one” for you? 

With every choice we make, we have the opportunity to change our lives and the lives of those around us for the better.   Even when we wish we could take those choices back, those same wrong choices can grow our characters and cultivate wisdom to help us make even better choices later down the road. 

So, remember that you’re never stuck.  Thank God for your choices, and use them well to choose your own adventure. 




Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time

The last time I danced in Mexico I wound up in the hospital. I certainly didn’t plan it that way. Let’s just say I got caught up in the moment.

Over Christmas break during my senior year at Indiana University, several of us went to serve at a children’s home in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. We painted, played with kids and did whatever we could to help out while we were there.

One night, the missionaries who hosted us threw a huge neighborhood birthday party for one of the kids in the home. Between the piñata and the loud music, it quickly escalated into a fiesta of enormous proportions.

And then people started to dance. It was a weird “Saturday Night Fever” kind of moment, where the crowd would part, leaving an open space in the middle of the dance floor for someone to show off their moves.

I’m not a dancer by trade, nor by genetics apparently, but I do like to have fun, and what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, right? So, before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of the dance floor with all eyes on me. No rhythm. No coordination. No problem. What I lacked in talent I would compensate for with enthusiasm.

I’ll spare you the awkward details of how I attempted to dazzle the crowd with my unique brand of hip-hop acrobatics, but, suffice it to say, I wasn’t exactly a Backstreet Boy. I had to do something drastic, something spectacular. It was time to show them what I was made of.

It was time to unleash my signature move, “the flip.” It did not go according to plan. With one clumsy stumble, “the flip” turned into “the slip” and my dreams of dancing with the stars crashed to the pavement with a sickening snap.

Instead of busting a move, I broke a collar bone. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In retrospect, it sounds ridiculous, but how many times have we all gone down the road of making a foolish choice that made perfect sense in the moment?

I’ve met smart, well-educated people who’ve made some of the dumbest choices you could imagine, choices that led to nothing but regret. The dad who walks out on his family. The cashier who gets caught stealing. The driver who’s had one drink too many. All of which, I’m sure, seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Bible says there’s a way that seems right to a man but, in the end, it leads to death. The older I get, the more I realize I need someone much bigger than me, much wiser than me, to help me make sound decisions or I’ll end up making mistakes far more painful than a broken collar bone. Mistakes that could cost me relationally, financially and spiritually. Thank God for God. It’s amazing that even for someone as foolish as me, life-giving wisdom is only a prayer away. Now, that really makes me want to dance.

Or, on second thought, maybe not.