[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the past year, my family has driven to my sister-in-law’s house in Fayetteville, Arkansas multiple times. Once, we drove out through the plains on I-40 before heading north in the Ozarks, but usually we stop to see my mother and father-in-law in Tulsa on the way. From Tulsa to Fayetteville, we’ve taken state highways offering glimpses of the wooded mountains and meandered our way slowly through trees and lakes. We have re-adjusted our route after making a wrong turn. Each time, we have happily arrived at our destination and a warm welcome.
The freedom to travel different paths to the same destination is the same freedom God gives us to live our lives. We can choose which path we want to take on the way to our destination, which is (hopefully) heaven. We can even make a wrong turn but still end up at the right place, sometimes by completely re-routing our path. While there are wrong paths, there are also many right ones that can lead us to our ultimate destination.
Our aim in life is to know, love, and serve God. Many paths lead us away from God—these are sinful paths. But more than one path leads us closer to God, allowing us to love and serve Him differently than if we’d chosen another path. Writer Simcha Fisher puts it this way, “God’s will is not a checklist of do’s and dont’s, but a living, fluid, powerful force that somehow, inconceivably, finds its way into our puny, seedling lives, nourishing us like the rain and making us grow and bear fruit.”
This broad understanding of God’s will opens us to the freedom that God gives us, but He also gives us guides in Scripture, the lives of the saints, and reality. God’s words given to us in Scripture unlock the ways that God guides His people, while the lives of the saints show us the constant invitation by God to grow closer to Him. God gives us reality, from our natural, human limits to our familial, social, economic, and employment situations. These circumstances, because they are given, also serve as signs.
Another guide is to recall the ultimate purpose of our earthly lives: to know, love, and serve God. In the face of a decision, we should ask ourselves, “Would this help me to know God, or lead me away from His goodness? Would this help me grow in love of Him, and understand His love for me? Would this help me serve God, directly or by helping me to develop natural virtue?” These questions can serve us with decisions big and small, from “What job should I take?” to “How should I spend my evening?”
God gives us opportunities for both joy and sacrifice in whatever path we choose. This should free us to act, to make a decision, for, as writer Fr. Julian Carron says, “not choosing is also a choice,” which leads to stagnation. The guides God gives us lead us away from stagnation into a fuller life with Him.