When You Are at a Crossroads
GPS devices have made vacation travel less dramatic. Years ago my dad used something called a TripTik to navigate our nation’s highways, many of which were still under construction at the time. What was a TripTik? Picture a map cut into pieces, bound by a plastic spine at the top, with lots of special fold-out sections to help you through cities and detours. The TripTik didn’t talk to us, but on occasion my dad talked to the TripTik.
Now I travel with the help of my hand-held navigator, and an electronic voice tells me where to go. I am guessing you do the same. But GPS devices aren’t perfect. Not long ago my wife and I approached a crossroads on a strange highway and our navigator had a melt-down. There is no sense hiding the truth: our GPS got lost! Bring back the TripTik!
A crossroad presents many challenges. In fairness to my navigator, it went haywire while we were approaching a multi-level interchange where roads fanned out in every direction. This is the problem with crossroads. Sometimes they present too many choices, and it isn’t always clear where the roads lead.
My first exposure to the concept of a crossroad as a symbol of life’s bigger journey was in elementary school. Our teacher challenged us to memorize Robert Frost’s classic poem “The Road Not Taken.” Perhaps you have heard the closing lines of the poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Crossroads are as unique as the individuals who face them, but there are a few important junctures in life we all experience. These include our choice of career, our decision to marry and, if so, whom, and whether or not we are going to put God at the center of our lives. We don’t always recognize the exact moments these things are settled in our minds, but later we can look back and, like Robert Frost, see “the difference.”
Jesus once talked about two roads, including one less traveled. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. ” (7:13-14). This is the one taken by those who choose to put the kingdom of God first.
I know our culture resists the notion that it is possible to make a wrong turn toward eternity, but deep down we know it is unreasonable to think otherwise. Many roads never meet, and while we can usually turn around, we cannot expect to take a path to one destination and end up at another. To be clear, we can’t choose to ignore the kingdom of God in our lives and expect to inherit it in the end.
The good news is, normally we have an opportunity to think and meditate on life’s crossroads. This doesn’t mean we won’t encounter important decisions that have to be made quickly, as moral choices are presented to us on a daily basis. However, even these decisions are predicated on the bigger choices we have made during earlier times of reflection.
In Psalm 5 David describes the kind of life that contemplates the big things in order to gain mastery over everything, big and small. Of course David was a living example of what happens when one grows complacent, and there is little doubt his writings were as much a reminder to himself as a directive to others.
The most important place to begin preparing for life’s crossroads is, as you might expect, in the beginning: the beginning of each day that is. David writes, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice” (5:3). Not everyone is a morning person, but if we are alive and breathing, at some point we need to shake our slumber and make up our minds how we are going to use each day God has given us. If we don’t, by the time we are fully awake, Satan will already have set our course, or neutralized any impact we might have had for God that day. Therefore, whenever our “morning” arrives, even if we are a late riser, a third-shift employee, or an international traveler, it is good to make sure our first conversation is with God.
But there is also a big context that sets the stage for the choices we make in life. David writes, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell” (vs. 4). This truth is more than a fact about God’s nature. It defines our present reality and reveals why crossroads occur in the first place. We are creatures of free will, and as long as wicked people determine to do evil things, there will be two clearly defined paths in the world. They are the paths Jesus described perfectly as those leading to either destruction or life.
If we are engaged in a battle between good and evil, and if we are going to be faced with decisions that could impact our lives moving forward, we need to begin each day with God in our hearts and minds, and “wait in expectation” (vs. 3) as He guides. The big decisions usually don’t have to be made at once. We have time to think, pray and counsel. Most of all, we have time to wait while God impressed His will on our hearts.
If you are pressed at a crossroads in your life and absolutely can’t wait, draw on everything you know about God’s desire for you and seek His kingdom above all. If you can wait, take all the time you need for clarity. Have you already taken a wrong turn? It’s ok. God can reroute you and help you make up for lost time. But whatever you do, don’t ever take a crossroad lightly. Every road leads somewhere, and the best place to determine where you will end up is when you take your first step. It may be the most important step you ever take.