Standing at the crossroads of life
By Christine Maddux / Guest Columnist
When I first visited Cashiers almost 30 years ago, I was charmed by the beauty of the area, the friendliness of the people, and the interesting shops and restaurants. At the time I lived in Minnesota, and had absolutely no inkling that God would take me on a long and winding road leading back here, where I now happily serve as a deacon at Christ Anglican Church, just east of the crossroads.
As you see, I have learned to give directions from the crossroads. It is much the same when we seek spiritual direction.
Sometimes we find ourselves at an interior crossroads wondering, “Where am I? How did I get here? Which way should I turn? Which road leads to my desired destination? What landmarks will assure me that I’m going the right way? Where can I get directions?”
Not all sources of spiritual direction are reliable, just as not all sources of physical directions are reliable. Ask a tourist who is unfamiliar with the area for directions, and although they may mean well, they might be entirely wrong. Or, one person’s “just down the road” may actually be 10 miles down the road.
Even GPS can fall short, as it did when I asked it to guide me to the Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry for our church’s month of volunteering there. My GPS got me to Frank Allen Road, but when it announced “the destination is on your left,” I could see that it was clearly not on my left. Thankfully, I knew what I was looking for from the photo on the ministry website, so I drove on with faith that the ascending address numbers would eventually lead to my destination.
Just as we can be misled by unreliable sources of physical direction, we can also be misled by unreliable spiritual sources. You may have heard it said, “All spiritual roads lead to God.” Given all the contradictory claims of various religions, that is as logical as saying “All physical roads lead to the Cashiers Post Office.”
Some people rely on a spiritual compass of their own design, by which they follow whatever path sincerely seems right to them. But what if that path is based on something that is just not true? The truth does matter. One may sincerely believe he or she is on the road to Ingles; but that doesn’t change the fact that by staying on it they will end up in Glenville.
The Christian faith is based on the One who declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” [John 14:6]. A follower of Christ can be confident that He will provide absolutely reliable direction for the right path at any of life’s crossroads. He lovingly bids us, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you” [Matthew 7:7].
His directions come through prayerful reading of the Bible, which has proved reliable for more than 3,000 years. It is teeming with spiritual direction, including, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls’“ [Jeremiah 6:16].
When we find ourselves at a crossroads in life, we can trust the ancient Cross road.
In the first part of my column, I wrote about facing a crossroads in life and deciding which path to follow. Sometimes a decision is momentous, such as whom to marry, which line of work to pursue, or whether or not to adopt a child. Most momentous by far is the decision to follow Christ; once we choose the Cross road, it affects dozens of our daily decisions, both big and small.
Think about how many choices you make in just one day. Many of them are routine and may hardly even register as decisions, like the decision to brush your teeth or put on your seatbelt. And indeed, we need not belabor every single choice we make, concerned about its eternal significance. Whether we choose the red shirt or the blue one matters not in light of eternity.
In many arenas, our loving God gives us freedom to choose within a whole realm of acceptable options. And even with our poor choices, if we repent and return to Him He will say, “Welcome back, let’s go on from here.” The Bible has many such stories, including those of David, Jonah, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus and Paul.
Yet we should not underestimate the importance of decisions that may seem small, but which will either move us farther down the road to Christlikeness or stall our progress and dilute our testimony.
Returning to King David, we find that his slide into serious sin with colossal repercussions began with one thoughtless decision not to avert his eyes when he should have [2 Samuel 11]. Today, it is not the view from a palace rooftop that offers visual temptation, but the internet, television and current clothing styles certainly do. Will we make a “small” decision to follow the Cross road or take a dangerous side street?
Such seemingly small decisions will either build strength for the continuing spiritual journey, or erode it. As theologian C. S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity,” “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or a railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
Lewis’ language reflects his World War II context, but his battle images depict the spiritual realm in any era. Our daily decisions will either fortify our spiritual might or weaken it, as the relentless war on our Christian character rages daily [1 Peter 5:8].
For example, every day we can decide whether to honor God with our time or waste it in excessive diversions; we can choose to tell the truth or shade it; we can decide whether to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of someone else, or not. Jesus taught often about the spiritual value of small decisions, as when He said, “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” [Matthew 10:42].
But making the right daily decisions depends on constant attentiveness to God, always listening for his direction. His written Word assures us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’” [Isaiah 30:21].
(The Rev. Christine Maddux is a deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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