I flexed my foot to stretch my calf while we were stopped. I bent down and fished my water bottle out of the stroller. My friend’s stroller was parked just ahead of mine. Our toddler boys reclined in their man-carts, happily stuffing themselves with snacks. I hadn’t been on our usual trail in a while: the air blew fresh scents of new growth up over the lake dam where we stopped for a moment. Our run/walk felt good to my legs, but the pressure in my own swirling thoughts was becoming great. We had been chatting, catching up for a while on the trail. Now that we had stopped, I looked at my friend. She was pulling a toy out of the bottom of her stroller for her son. I decided to risk the question to her:
“Hey, so can I ask you a random question?” I started.
“Sure, go ahead.” She replied.
“Well, in your experience, how have you made your major life decisions?”
She was in my same place in life: thirty-something, college-educated, married with a small child, and a mortgage. I’ve known her long enough to respect her life choices, and trust her decision making skills. But what were those skills?
I’ve been thinking about this lately: when we’re perplexed about what to do, why do we seek out each others’ stories? What is this that compels us to ask each other, “Well, how did YOU do it?”
At the time, I was trying to weigh a million factors about some life decisions. Nothing catastrophic, mind you. My husband and I were just weighing the wisdom of the right timing for making some decisions in our life. We both tend to overthink things. At best, that means our decisions are usually well-planned-for. At worst, it means our decisions can become endlessly delayed, as we chew over the details like pieces of gristle.
I think it’s a human desire: to try to make the right decisions for all involved in our purview. These are questions any of us could be chewing on: Is it time to replace your old car? It is time to buy that house? Is it time to take that next step in the relationship? Is it time to enroll in those new classes? Is it time to make a career change? Is it time to move?
Who knows? There is no cheat sheet for this test.
So we look around us for who else has done this “Life-thing.” The Bible backs up this wisdom.
Proverbs 15:22-23 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!”
As she talked, I soaked up her stories. I didn’t realize how thirsty I was.
I’m not the only one. When we feel stuck or lonely or overcome by our own confused brains, we need each other’s stories. We need to hear the answer to, “So, how did YOU do this?” We need friends and mentors. We need to risk feeling vulnerable and asking for what actually matters to us.
As I heard her tell her stories of deciding to marry her husband, and deciding to have a child with him, I heard over and over again how God orchestrated the decision with her. Sometimes He laid out a trail of breadcrumbs for her to follow to the conclusion. Sometimes He only gave her an inner sense of peace over one choice. Oftentimes, He gave her the Bible to read, people to talk to, and reminded her that she had a smart brain and the freedom to make her own decisions.
God doesn’t micromanage the details of our lives. If we earnestly seek his decision on a matter, and He remains silent, it could be that He’s throwing the ball back to us. Which doesn’t seem fair at all. But it chases me into other people’s lives to peek in their window and see how they arrange their furniture.
I have never lived this life before. Neither have you. We are doing things for the first time, regularly. It’s a vulnerable and scary thing to engage in this life, to wake up to a new day we have never seen before, each morning.
If we leave our stories un-told, we deprive each other of vital help. If we leave our questions un-asked, we deprive ourselves of connection and guidance. The pride of isolation ruins momentum in our lives quite efficiently.
In those moments when we are perplexed and don’t know what to do, we need each others’ stories: to grasp a warm soul in comfort, to marvel at our specific trajectories, and to share collectively wisdom gleaned in the lonely places of our lives.