Walking north from our driveway in the morning, I come to a spot where the Soo Line Trail crosses the road. At that juncture, I have a choice to turn right or left. If I turn right, the trail will take me across the Mississippi River where I stop and listen to the thunder of the foamy water pouring over Blanchard Dam. I will usually continue on that path until I come to the road that runs along the east side of the river where I will turn around. If I turn left, the trail will take me toward the place where I can cross over Hay Creek. Downstream this quiet little rivulet will run along our property. It doesn’t matter which I choose. Both have their beauty. But even though I know it doesn’t matter, I sometimes have a little angst before I choose. The Road Not Taken looms in my head.
We have many decisions to make throughout our lives. If we count the minute decisions like what to eat for breakfast or whether to wear a jacket, they multiply into the millions in one life time. Most of us don’t struggle long over these smaller decisions, but we might have considerable anxiety over whether to change jobs or whether to purchase a home, whether to marry or start a family. As I contemplated this decision-making thing we do whenever we are given choices, I had the thought that maybe it doesn’t matter. The harder decisions I have made over the years sure seemed consequential at the time. I had real fear over choosing wrongly. My spiritual understanding at these times made me ask the question “What is God’s will here?” Then I would look for little signs so I could know for sure that I was making the right choice. Even when I thought I was choosing rightly, sometimes when I ran into snags later, I would wonder if I should have taken the other road. What a sad predicament! I have sometimes thought that God did a nasty thing giving me a free will. It sometimes feels like such a burden.
This morning, I thought about this “God’s will” thing with which some of us spiritual neurotics struggle. I thought of Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbor. It is all that is required, he said. If this is true, then no matter which path I may choose at any juncture, God’s will stays the same. Whether I turn left or right, take a plane or a train, spend the day alone or with friends, buy new house or stay put, God asks me to love. Then I wondered, what is the point of having a free will? I think it is because God wants us to have fun. Of course, some choices are painful, but we can later look back and there is another choice: between regretting not choosing the other path or gratitude for choosing the one we did.