…It’s not often in life that we’re faced with a huge monumental fork in the road; rather, the journey is filled with these tiny seemingly insignificant decisions that eventually lead us to the mountain top above or the valley below. I choose the mountain top… one seemingly insignificant decision at a time.
~Michael J. Hohn~
My grandparents just celebrated their sixty-ninth wedding anniversary, a feat I aspire to. Theirs was a funny beginning. Grandma was only sixteen and Grandpa led her in maturity by merely three years. They stood, as two young teenagers, before a Justice of the Peace, short one witness. So, Mr. Justice hollered for his mother-in-law to come give him a hand. She entered the scene with her hair tied up in rags and as the clock struck two behind them, he pronounced them man and wife.
If you ask them how they did it, they’ll tell you they just never quit. They love each other today just as much as they did sixty-nine years ago when they said ‘I do’. Grammy says people give up too easy these days, while Grandpa asserts that it all started when that clock struck two and it just never stopped ticking. They seemed to blink and sixty-nine years later they were old and weathered, but they were still together. But, I am not buying that. I think it took thousands of tiny little decisions that build upon each other over the years. They may not have seemed significant at the time, or even now looking back upon them individually. Rather, it has to be how they were strung together through the years that made their story last – and maybe a smidgen of grace.
Once upon a time when I was a self-involved teenager, wandering aimlessly through life, struggling to come to terms with my parents marriage falling apart. I came upon a boy who would forever transform my tale into its own fairytale of sorts. I did not know it the moment it occurred, nor would I have believed it if someone had spoken it’s secret to me, but after our paths crossed he stepped away from the event with much more of an ‘enlightening’. He saw something that would take years for me to figure out. In fact, he’d go home to tell his mother that he, at a ripe young age of fourteen, would one day marry this girl who didn’t know who she was or where she was going. Talk about a seemingly insignificant decision.
What he saw in me, I am still not sure. It may be that he saw something I had not yet found myself, just as he saw our meeting for more than just a rendezvous with another random girl. Or maybe he was just a bigger dreamer than I, so his eyes were open, allowing him to see the capacios picture, long before most his age.
Regardless, his grand aspirations were true. Seven years later after many heartaches and wrong turns on both our parts, we found ourselves standing hand in hand in a magical garden exchanging vows that spoke of ever after and to death do us part.
I love it that he was right, that where we ended up didn’t surprise him at all. From the first moments we met he made me feel like I was worth something more than I believed was true. Had he been wrong about ‘us’ I am not sure if I ever would have found ‘me’. But, even he, had to have doubted his first premonitions along the way. Because we didn’t just ‘end up’ in that garden anymore than my grandparents just ‘ended up’ married after sixty-nine years.
I can sit here, where I am today, and see that it all made sense. Each step along the way marking a place and time, a moment that led to another moment that led to another moment. Each little piece of the puzzle teetering on a decision that had to be made by him or by me. Each choice we made determining where we would go next. Step by step, decision by decision, creating what eventually would be us. And even though I feel within my heart of hearts, that we were ‘meant’ to be, just as Mike felt from day one, I know it’s only by God’s grace that we ended up that way.
It’s as if life is a giant dot to dot book. Each page creating a different picture, bound all together, essentially telling the story of who we are, what we did and how we got here. Our own picture book of what we did with our lives. It’s by God’s redemptive revising, I am sure, that this one lovely chapter in my life ended the way it did. I know I didn’t always make the right decisions. I got confused along the way and just didn’t know where to go next. I missed spots that were meant to be precursors to others further down the road. I assumed I knew how it was all going to turn out so I skipped ahead. It seems my imagination is never quite up to par with God’s. He expects and desires so much more for me than I do myself.
Sometimes you can look at a fresh dot to dot page created for a child and pretty much guess what it will look like in the end. Whether it’s an elephant or a heart or a dog wagging its tail – you can envision it even before you actually connect all the dots. But, the dot to dot pages of life are much too intricate to figure out at first glance. It’s my personal opinion that they generally come together creating pictures far greater than anything we could ever conceive on our own.
I can page through my life and give God the credit chapter after chapter after chapter. So, many dots are just figments of my hopes and dreams and desires. Others are pieces of my life I did not like or understand; dots that seemed to destroy pictures rather help create them. But, even those were used to make something lovely.
I can see my parents meeting, falling in love, making a life for themselves and then all of that falling apart. But, from one broken picture, that at one time seemed as if nothing good could come from it, God was able to piece it back together by attaching it to another. Instead of my family dwindling, it grew. Dot by dot. Line by line. God fixed what we broke.
I envision my GG, my mom’s mom, packing her bags and transporting her girls thousands of miles away from the broken life she was living in Ohio; escaping a world that made her heart ache, to take on another one, all on her own, here in Washington. I can catch glimpses of love discovering her again and then slipping through her fingers. Years and years full of tiny little dots that seemed to lead nowhere. And then the magical one that lead her back home again, some sixty years later, to find the boy who once made her blush at sixteen, wrinkled and worn but still making her blush in her seventies. Dot by dot. Line by line. God turning her drama into a love story all its own.
Twenty-some years ago I never imagined I’d end up in that garden. When I stood in that magical place I naively believed our own story had found its happy-ending. I never thought, ten years down the road, we’d make enough wrong moves to bring us to a place where we questioned it all – where we questioned ‘us’. And when I was buried in the disappointment of losing sight of the gift I’d been given and frozen in fear of what I had squandered, I never imagined three years and many heart jerking dots later we’d still be standing here, slightly bruised but stronger and more determined than before. Dot by dot. Line by line. He helps us find our way back.
I am not saying that everything is eventually perfect. But, I really do believe we all have the chance at a happy ending. Each dot is set before us and if we could just follow the number sequences correctly, and not stray from the plan, it would all end well. The plans He has for us are good after all. Only if.
But, from the beginning of time we’ve been messing up God’s perfect pictures. We see the dots ahead or behind and we want to skip back or skip forward. We look for things that weren’t meant for us and miss little warnings along the way in arrogance because we think we know how it should be. Eve wanted that freaking apple. Adam wanted to please her. Eden disappeared but God didn’t. We mess the picture up and He works on fixing it. He slips in a life saving, unexpected dot that helps us find our way back to where we belong. In the end, it may not be the picture we thought He had drawn out for us, but it’s always better than anything we could have thought up on our own.
If you read the bible you’ll see it. Dot by dot, by dot, by dot. One thing eventually leads to another. Jesus was eventually born just like He promised. It took some time and some extra lines, but His promise held true. He fixes the things we break.
Jesus came, not exactly how we thought he would. He lived, not exactly how we thought he would. He changed the world, not exactly how we thought he would. And then he died, not exactly how we thought he would. But, in the end it all made sense. Or it didn’t and the fact that it didn’t was the thing that ended up making sense – if that makes any sense. His resurrection was our hope; is our hope. His sacrifice fixes all of our mistakes. So, really in the end – every story does have the chance of being a happily ever after. I am not saying every story does. But, every story has the choice.
There is this ‘straight and narrow’, numerical path and the perfect picture. And there is the messed up one and the redeemer who finds a way to work it all out. There are the choices that lead us to happily ever after and there are the choices that lead us away from any kind of happy here, or after. But, there is always a choice that can bring us back. That choice is ours. I believe it’s a dot that God uses again and again and again in our lives.
My love story with Mike, which I know is still working its way out, is laced with God’s favorite dot. The entire thing is glazed over with His grace. It’s a zigzagging perfect mess. And I am constantly in search of that one repeating dot that will bring me back. The one He gives me so that I always have the choice to make it right. I’ve quit trying to figure out what it will look like when it’s all said and done. Instead, I am just loving it for what it is – an opportunity to see how good my God is.
These dots in our lives, they are the little seemingly insignificant decisions that piece our lives together. There are too many of them for us to ever get a perfect score. We can tip toe our way to the mountain top, knowing each and every move we make either draws us closer to our dreams, or further away – and we’ll still make some that will pull us down. The only monumental fork in the road is when we decide whether or not we are making the climb with a life saving rope, anchored in, or whether we just want to do it free-style. We can climb knowing one wrong move can drop us to our death or with a peace in our hearts, knowing that if we reach for the wrong ledge or a piece of the mountain breaks away causing us to lose our footing, the dot of grace will catch our fall.
I am choosing the safety rope. I have seen glimpses of my life absent of grace and it frightens me. But, even more so, I have seen it speckled with life saving, redeeming dots. I know it’s the gift of these that make this beautiful life I live possible. Even when it seems as if it has all been lost, it’s what keeps me hanging on, because I know He can use all things for the good of those, like me, who love Him. He’s the guy that makes beauty from ashes. And I am certain that every story book can have a happy ending as long as He’s in it.
One day I’ll blink and sixty-nine years will have flashed before my eyes. I desperately hope that when I am old and weathered, it’s still Mike, my prince-charming that is by my side. But, I don’t expect to just end up there. A million ‘seemingly insignificant’ decisions are scattered before us. If he’s my mountaintop, I know I have to choose the right ones at the right time and pray that God’s grace will follow me, pulling me back to where I belong if and when I lose my way. So, I’m choosing him – one seemingly insignificant decision at a time, uncertain of how to find my way, but with a peace, knowing I don’t have to make the climb on my own.