There’s a Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown is lying in bed talking to Snoopy, who’s lying atop the covers at Charlie’s feet. Charlie says, “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?'” Next, in the closing panel, Charlie says, “Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, ‘We hate to tell you this, but life is a thousand word essay.'”
It should make sense that the older you get the easier life gets. What I mean is, you’ve got your dumb mistakes behind you. You have the advantage of experience. You are wiser, more seasoned. But the problem is that whatever help comes from being experienced and wiser gets counteracted by the fact that life’s issues become more complex. When I lie awake at night, I think back to the days when I was a kid playing with a plastic baseball and bat in my backyard. That was such a simple, carefree time. The only thing I had to worry about was hitting my ball so far into the surrounding woods that I lost it. When I got hungry, I went back inside and ate. I never gave a moment’s thought to what all was involved with getting those groceries paid for and placed in those cabinets. For that matter, I never gave a moment’s thought to how the mortgage on our house got paid. I know now that “baseball stadium” back yards don’t come cheap.
How should I support my family? What church should I pastor? Where should we live? Am I doing right by my wife Tonya? Am I being a good father to my boys – Ryan and Royce? Should we renovate our garage apartment and rent it out? Are we putting enough money back for retirement? What sermon should I preach this Sunday? What post should I write today for my blog? These are the kinds of topics that I struggle with nowadays. And, yes, despite all my experience and seasoning, it’s a struggle. You want essay questions? I got ’em.
I’ve read that at Boot Hill Cemetery in Arizona there is a grave-marker that reads: “Lynched By Mistake.” That tells me that all mistakes aren’t created equal. Some of them carry far greater consequences than others. This is why I obsess so much over God’s specific will for my life, which just also happens to coincide with His specific will for my family’s life. I don’t want to make a bad decision that will get me, Tonya, Ryan, or Royce lynched. I’m not talking about getting lynched on an old-west gallows. I’m talking about getting lynched on the gallows of ending up in a setting or circumstance that isn’t in God’s will. You see, places like that make for dangerous ground. Gallows are everywhere if we only had the spiritual discernment to recognize them for what they are.
It is for this reason that I pray frequently and fervently, and I try to talk with God as opposed to just talking at Him. Why do I want my prayers to be dialogues and not monologues? It’s because I understand that I don’t have the answers to life’s essay questions. My best decisions come when I willingly play the role of sheep and let the Lord play the role of shepherd. I don’t always agree with the direction in which He leads me, but I do try to obey Him. Admittedly, that takes more faith in regards to some decisions than others, but I’ve learned that whenever I obey Him a great weight of responsibility is taken off my shoulders. How the decision turns out is no longer my department because I’m working out His plan, not mine. And I’m happy to report that neither I nor Tonya and the boys have gotten lynched yet.