Updated: Mar 20, 2020
I loved those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books as a kid because I was the hero and I got to make choices in the story that resulted in a successful adventure or one that led to impending doom. Either way, I loved it because I chose my own adventures. I was in control. I feels good to be in control, doesn't it?
I think those books are so popular because even from an early age, we want very much to be in control of our lives. We realize just how important that is when we get home from school and we're STARVING. That big chocolate chip cookie in our tiny little hand looks like the Holy Grail and just as we're about to take that first heavenly bite, our mom swoops in like a hawk and snatches it and hands us a carrot stick instead.
That's when we realize just how important being in control of our lives really is. Not being in control feels like helplessness.
As we move into adulthood, we experience more feelings of helplessness. We lose a friendship. We lose a job. We lose our health. With all the plans that we've made for our lives, we find that very little of that is actually within our control. There has to be more than being destined to be that pimply little kid in Dodgeball who's somehow always targeted by a bully named Life.
Psalm 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way.
When I was fourteen, my family went on a vacation to an all-inclusive beach resort in Honduras. When all of the food, entertainment, and water sports are included, you make sure to take advantage of all of it. We were on the tail end of our vacation and still hadn't tried sea canoeing. I made my way down to the beach with my parents and we checked out 2 very large, very heavy canoes.
To surprise, my parents both climbed into one, leaving me to manage what I imagine was a canoe that weighed more than I did. This was a new experience for me, so I was delighted when I realized how easy it was for me to move so quickly out to sea. I thought, wow- I knew I was pretty strong but I'm killing this!
I stopped paddling and took a moment to take in the scenery. Pretty soon, I realized that I was even further out and I hadn't been paddling. Now I was really far from the shore and my parents were already halfway back to the beach. At this point, I had a pit in my stomach. I knew something was wrong.
I started paddling back to shore and realized I wasn't getting anywhere. I paddled harder and harder. Desperately, I looked to see if my parents had noticed that I was in the middle of the ocean. They hadn't. I started to panic. This was not the adventure I had chosen. My adventure looked like trying something new, enjoying the scenery, and then gracefully paddling back to shore.
The adventure that life had chosen for me was different. This looked like a skinny 14 year old, climbing into a canoe that was way too heavy to manage, and being pulled out to sea during low tide when the water is pulling away from the beach. I was not in control.
At this point, I had two options. I could've thrown my hands up and accept that I was a victim to a situation that I had not chosen, or I could accept this adventure and own it, which is what I chose to do. Like a mama lifting a van save her baby, I used every bit of adrenaline my body could produce to get myself back to safety.
We all think we want an adventure until life hands us one.
What is an adventure really, but a challenge. What greater challenge awaits us than one we aren't prepared to face; than one we don't choose?
I propose that we stop trying to turn life into a choose your own adventure book and instead make it a Mission Impossible movie. Can we agree that a Mission Impossible movie would make for a much cooler life than a children's book?
In Mission Impossible, the agent, Ethan Hunt, is given a recording that starts, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..."
We've lived long enough by now to know that we can't control all of the things that happen to us. What we can control is how we handle it. Although we can't always choose our own adventure, we can choose to accept the mission that has been handed to us. We can take it and own it and do spectacular things with it like ski down K2 while taking out the things that are trying to take you down, and hijack a helicopter to save our friend... metaphorically speaking.
We can do those things because when we take back control by accepting the mission that God has handed to us, we wake up each day excited about how we're going to overcome the adversity that comes with a mission we don’t choose.
On the contrary, we don't do those courageous and extraordinary things when we roll out of bed dreading the situation that we didn't choose. We dread situations because we believe we'll fail them. We've already given up. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know because as I grew older and experienced more challenges that I hadn’t chosen, I began to grieve a life that had not become a children’s story book. Grief gave way to apathy, and then to depression until one day that fourteen year old inside of me spoke up and presented me with the same two options from which she had once chosen: give up and be swept out into a sea of hopelessness, or accept the mission to fight to live.
Paul didn’t choose to be imprisoned but he accepted the mission that God handed to him.
Philippians 1:12-14 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Because Paul accepted the mission God gave him, he had the freedom in his spirit to see the good that God was bringing from it.
Think back to a time in your life when something difficult took place. You may not have to think back very far. Maybe it's happening right now. Did you feel helpless or apathetic? From now on, when life throws something at you that you would've never chosen for yourself, instead of feeling powerless by your circumstances, you can choose to team up with God and do great things with it.
This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.
What's the best thing you've experienced by accepting a mission that you didn't choose for yourself? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!
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