As a parent of a rising high school junior and college sophomore, I have heard one statement more and more frequently from other parents. When referring to a son or daughter the age of my children they often say - "I only hope that (s)he makes good decisions." I have uttered these words as well, and I sincerely wish this for my children. I'd love to loan them my wisdom and insure that they don't hurl themselves headlong into pits I've crawled out of by the grace of God. And without giving them any ideas...I've schooled them as well as I can in this training program called parenthood. The older that they get, the more I see my job narrowing significantly to eventually primarily emcompass what I perceive to be the big three: watch, hope and pray.
It is my stringent belief that much of our life is rolled into the choices that we make, and the rest - heredity, environment, expectations, opportunities, geography, and timing do the work of fine tuning our lives into something unique. And while we do not have control of the circumstances of our birth or our upbringing, there comes a point where our decisions begin to steer the ship - for better or for worse. Whether we pilot that ship alone, or with someone at the helm, is one of those decisions...but it may be the most important.
In early adulthood, we see the smorgasbord of potential occupations, opportunities, and options as a bit overwhelming. Which college to attend, which job to accept, what we are going to do as a profession, and where we are going to live are all major life changing decisions. Nobody disputes this, and although we would all like to have all of the answers when it would do us the most good, the majority unfolds in unexpected ways due to the influence of others, and to the uniqueness of our individual situation. We celebrate people who seem to get it right...those who perform well in school, have exceptional athletic ability that earns a scholarship, who have a calling to the ministry, medicine, or education, or those who have a strong relationship with the Lord from an early age. And while these are definitely worthy of celebration and admiration...the majority of us get our answers in a far less impressive manner.
Strangely enough, most of us spend the first eighteen years of our lives focused on the short term and build our view of ourselves within those constraints. We are overlooked in high school and become convinced that college will be more of the same. We make a mistake that defines our life. We win every award, title, or contest and are universally loved and admired. We have a family history to overcome. We have every advantage and have no reason to believe that life will be anything but what we have known it to be. As such, it is obviously sometimes a good thing...other times...not so much.
All of us have heard of people who do exceptional feats at a young age...and we are fascinated by this. I think of the young gymnasts, ice skaters, swimmers, singers, and pilots and I am awed by not only their talent, but by their determination and focus. I remember spending Friday nights in my childhood secretly wishing that I could be in The Partridge Family or would actually learn to be exceptional at something. Unfortunately for me, in this regard, I was a late bloomer.
However, most of us are the product of the decisions that we have made. If we trace our lives forward, we can project where our education, family influence, intelligence, and talent should lead us. We then confidently head out in the direction of our dreams...or whatever graduation speeches tell us to do.
When we are older, though, we have both the benefit of hindsight and foresight. we have mourned the death of some precious dreams we held, have learned to appreciate the moment, and believe that there is still some unexplored territory. For instance, I know the answers to many of the questions I had at 18. I have had the time, encouragement and opportunity to develop certain gifts, and have had to let others atrophy. For instance...I now have the drive to write, am paid to do it in my employment, and derive a lot of enjoyment from it, but I can no longer do a back bend. Oh well.
But as I trace the path of my life, I am also able to trace the hand of the many people who came to nudge, suggest, or drag me kicking and screaming from point A to point B. My life is more than just the conscious decisions that I made. I had other people who saw potential in me, just like I have seen and encouraged potential in others. Sometimes a simple suggestion at the perfect time sent me out on a different trajectory than I would have followed had the intervention not occurred. Granted, there were times when choosing one option meant saying no to another. Failing to choose at times gave me the direction I would follow by default. Choosing poorly sometimes limited my choices in other areas. Life is like a multiple choice test where there is often more than one correct answer to every question. And other times, no matter how you choose...you are going to get the same answer.
It has been my opinion, based on my faith, that my life has been a series of choices that are secondary to a primary purpose that God put me here to accomplish and has revealed to me over time. Some of my early stupidity gave me wisdom...although I wouldn't recommend learning the hard way. Overcoming obstacles and having little fear of being transparent gave God an advocate that He has used to affect other people's lives. And for some reason, I am one of those people that other people tend to ask an opinion from on occasion. So, as I look at my failures, I sometimes see them now as proof of God's redemptive power. I also see them as part of the mosaic of who I am. A mosaic that wouldn't be quite as interesting without those dark stones to more heavily define the light ones.
As a parent...yes...I hope that my children will make good decisions. I have been fortunate in that the big decisions I made...marriage partner, children, profession, geography...have worked out for me thus far. I'm also hoping that I can correct some poor ones I've made in terms of taking care of myself, being more organized, and focusing on what is most important. With God's help, I will...and so will my children. Later!