You know how, sometimes, when you’re talking with a friend for a long time, you can end up talking about something so random, so unrelated to your original topic, that you can’t help but say, “How on earth did we get HERE?”
I love trying to think back and remember which rabbit trails and diversions landed us smack in the middle of, “Remember that time we took a road trip and lost your car?” when we started the conversation with, “How’s the family?” It’s as fun as working backward to figure out when I first met a friend or started reading a blog or heard about something or someone that used to be new.
It’s interesting and kind of fun to see how one twist, one turn can so drastically change a conversation, a relationship, a life.
Did you ever read those Choose Your Own Adventure books? I did. Loved them. But I’m not sure I read them the way they were designed to be read.
See, every time I had to make a choice, I either dog-eared the page (sorry, librarians) or simply kept my finger in that spot. That way I could go back after reading one scenario and see what would happen if I took that other road. I liked keeping my options open.
Who am I kidding? I still like keeping my options open.
After working my first post-college job for nearly a year, I left to start graduate school. But after one semester I knew that program wasn’t right for me at that time, and I resigned my assistant-ship. My former employer hadn’t replaced me yet, so after what I jokingly referred to as my sabbatical, I returned to my job.
I’d kept my finger in that spot and went back for a do-over.
So many times since then I’ve wondered about that string of decisions. Should I have finished graduate school? I never ended up earning my master’s degree, after all. Should I have resisted the temptation to return to my job I loved so much? It was never the same after that.
Later I left the ad agency I worked at for a supposedly better position at another, supposedly better agency. It WAS a good job at a good company, but it wasn’t for me. My manager was amazing — brilliant, hardworking, on her way up, and willing to mentor young women like myself. I could see that if I stayed there, learning about things I wasn’t interested in and working more hours than I was paid for, I would become just like her.
That wasn’t a bad thing, but it wasn’t what I truly wanted for my life. Later, when I was laid off from what I thought would be my dream job full of meaning and accomplishment and work-life balance (is that even a thing?!), I wondered if maybe I’d gotten it wrong.
I could worry myself down that track for all sorts of experiences.
What if I hadn’t joined my friends for that church plant (that failed)?
What if I hadn’t shared my heart with that friend who misunderstood me?
What if we hadn’t bought this house? Or opened that credit card?
What if we hadn’t taken that trip? Or started that project?
But the thing is . . . life isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure story. We don’t get to go back, to do life over, to change our minds, to choose a different adventure.
Or . . . can we?
Well, not exactly. We can’t turn back the clock, change history, or — in most cases — get back that job we gave up. We can’t spend our lives regretting our choices, wishing we’d chosen other paths, longing for do-overs.
Life is no choose-your-own-adventure book.
But our God promises to forgive our pasts, our mistakes, our sins. And then? His mercies are fresh – brand new – every morning. And we can rest easy in the peace of a God who has plans – good plans – for us, a God who removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.
And then? Then we can be still and ask Him, “What’s our next adventure?”
Michele Morin says
Reading your wise words, I realized that a number of my own posts this year have had road signs and pictures of curving highways that mirror the question marks I’ve been living. What a gift to read your faith-filled thoughts on this business of following a God who sees all the bends in the road and loves us with all His planning heart.
Mary Carver says
I love looking back on what I’ve written and seeing God’s fingerprints all over it, realizing how He’s been moving in my life the whole time!
Jennifer Frisbie says
These words resonate today, Mary. I’ve had a lot of “what ifs” going through my mind, specifically just the week. I spent last evening, late into the night actually, questioning myself and wrestling with the enemy over regrets that I’m sure his hand was behind. I asked s friend for prayer and I wake this morning to your post. Such a breath of fresh air for me. His mercies ARE new.
Thank you for your words!
Mary Carver says
Jennifer, I’m so glad God could use my words to encourage you! I’m grateful over and over AND OVER to remember His new mercies!
Lately my anxiety is killing me. I am constantly running marathons in my mind about the “What ifs” and “If only” or “Why didn’t I?” . I am exhausted. I am not sleeping well (waking at 3am and tossing until 5:30 when I finally get up). I have been having pain in all parts of my body for no apparent reason~ there has been no heavy lifting or aerobic moves that could explain the pain ~ I am guessing this stress/anxiety is the cause.
This is a very timely post…funny how they work like that.
Oh Kathy, I know those struggles you are having and I beg the Lord to strengthen you to persevere, to cast your cares, and take each shaky step in faith. Our Lord intends to heal you and each of us; we just have to keep praying and reach out to Him and others. Keep on thorough the trials, sister…He has this and you 🙂 You are precious to Him 🙂
Beth Williams says
Prayers for God to send peace and contentment to your weary soul. May you feel God’s loving arms surround you and calming your fears. May He bring healing to your body and soul!
Mary, my heart so desperately needed reminding of this today! God is so good in His weaving of all of our choices into the plan He has for us, and it is so very easy to get bogged down by doubting “what if” brings when we find ourselves not anywhere near the place we thought we’d be in life. Thankful for the reminder that God’s mercies are new every morning!! Crystal~
Mary Carver says
Yes, it is so easy to get bogged down in regrets and doubt, isn’t it? I think it’s one of the ways the enemy works best, but thankfully for you and me, God always shows up with reminders of His mercy and love and TRUTH. I’m grateful He used my words to be an encouragement to you!
Jeanne Takenaka says
Mary, I used to read those choose your own adventure books the same way—checking out my options before proceeding. How interesting that God asks us to follow His leading. And even then, I’m not always sure I’m doing it right. I’ve looked back on some of my choices and wondered, “What if . . . ” but, I’ve learned that, even when I got it wrong, God still made His presence known. He still walked with me and let me lean into Him.
I love that He has GOOD plans for us. And that He knows our next steps. 🙂 Thanks for such great reminders today!
Mary Carver says
I love that – He still walked with me. That’s just it, isn’t it? No matter which adventure we choose, He is with us!
A number of years ago I was filled with anxiety about things I had no control over and God led me to a devotion by James Ryle. It was what I needed and I wrote this part of it out on a note pad:
“I yield my heart to the government of Christ over my Affections; Appetites; Ambitions; Aspirations; Aggravations.” I taped the list to the cover of my address file box where I see it when I work at the table where I keep my calendar. I wrote across the bottom of the paper the date and “Lord God, hold me to it I pray!” One day I noted after prayer, “He added Anxieties!” There were times when I had to rethink my Ambitions and even Affections but when He added Anxieties it changed my outlook on so many things. My biggest battle was the Appetites but that has become a blessing. He truly is faithful to nudge me when I’m planning food, and being careful to sit at the table and enjoy my meal as I eat has helped much. I am thankful for Mr. Ryle’s wisdom, and to Father God for holding me to it!
There is no part of our life that He doesn’t want to help us with. Because things seem to happen in clusters in my life I was an emotional eater; “can’t fix that, I’ll just eat this”. I had to go back into this and yield my Appetites to His government a few times, but He is always faithful. I am altering favorite clothing to fit what my body has become, and more will go to the Clothing Closet at my church to bless someone else.
I pray for you Kathy, that God will lift you up and show you how to get past the woulda, shoulda, coulda that stress throws at you and that you will take His hand that is always reaching toward you and run your race with Him beside you all the way. He loves you!
Becjy L. says
Good thoughts on life and oh dear me….why did I choose what I did….bought. It would look different if we took a different job, married a different man, bought a different house. God is in control but give us free will. Yep..I read a few of those choose your own adventure books and read other options too. We always have options daily and we choose in the light of God’s truth our thoughts and actions.
Becky L. says
Spelled my name wrong. It’s Becky.
Emily Conrad says
I’ve had experiences like this, too–leaving a good, solid job I enjoyed for something I expected to be even better only to find out it wasn’t. That may look like a mistake on my resume and I did make some mistakes, but like you said, God forgives and I can see how he used that to bring me to where I am now. I never got the hang of choose-your-own-adventure books, and they didn’t tend to end well for me. Thank God that he’s in control of the outcome of my life, not me!
Mary Carver says
Yes, yes, yes! SO thankful HE is in control!
Mary, I praise the Lord for this thought-provoking posting, for these His gracious words. As I pray that my life is surrendered everyday to His will and direction, I try to lay down the insecurities and regrets that trying to control my life didn’t change. As I listened to Bishop Fulton Sheen this morning, I realized that the only choice I have to make each day to walk with the Lord is to say yes to each step He places before me, for those choices are designed to change me for His glory and turn me to love Him. It can be so hard some days, but I am so grateful for the Lord working through you to bring these words that encourage 🙂 May He lift each of us up to see the light He shines as a lamp unto our path today 🙂
Mary Carver says
Thank YOU, An, for your encouraging words here!
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you, Mary, for this celebration of God’s mercies that includes good plans and even beauty for ashes. How glorious to contemplate: even our blunders and detours can be used by him. And praise God for his forgiveness, too, and his willingness to get us back on track. He IS a good and gracious God!
Blooming Momma says
Thank you for your transparency and perspective in this post! I am such a planner, which is not always a bad thing, but I try and make my own plans for my life and then convince God to fit my plan. Thankfully, He doesn’t let me. But it’s a struggle letting go of my plans and following his path, even when I can’t see clearly what will happen. Lately there have been some areas lacking clarity in the future and I want SO BADLY for God to just show them to me so I can understand. Or so I can take over the planning. Praying God gives me the faith to trust Him instead of asking “what if” and micro-managing.
Mary Carver says
I hear you on every point! Little by little, God seems to be working the “control freak” out of me, but it’s a long journey! 🙂
Julie Garmon says
Thank you, Mary! I was praying about this very topic this morning!!
So appreciate your thoughts.
Mary Carver says
I’m so glad God used this post to encourage you, Julie!
Thank you for this insightful post!
“But the thing is . . . life isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure story. We don’t get to go back, to do life over, to change our minds. We can’t spend our lives regretting our choices, wishing we’d chosen other paths, longing for do-overs.” I have often wanted to have a do-over in life. Often times I regret a lot of the choices I’d made. It’s like I made huge mistakes and am not enough. I am so glad God can make beauty out of ashes. I am at a point where I’m asking God “what’s my next adventure?”