Did anyone ever read those “Choose Your Own Ending” books? At church a few weeks ago, our pastor talked about them. I had totally forgotten how much I loved those. In case you don’t remember them (or in case you are not as old as me and the trend had passed before you could even read), they were books where the character (which I think was supposed to be you) would end the chapter in some sort of predicament-facing a major decision. Then, it would give you two choices that would say something like: “If you choose to head into the woods to find your friends, turn to page 75. If you decide to head back to the camp ground and call for help, turn to page 111.” So, you would make your choice and turn to the appropriate page. Sometimes the adventure would continue for a few more pages and then give you another set of scenarios to choose from. But other times, just when you thought you had come upon your friends having a party in the woods, you’d find that you had stumbled upon a pack of frenzied hyenas who would turn and tear you to shreds. The End.
Here’s what I think; “Choose Your Own Ending” books never let you choose your own ending. Think about it, you don’t choose the ending, you choose the next action you want to take. How it ends is totally a mystery until you get to the page it directs you to. And isn’t that how life is? We would like to THINK we are choosing are own end result by setting goals and dreaming big dreams, but the only thing we are actually able to choose and follow through with is the “next right thing.” We can control only what we will do presently. The rest is unknown. Oswald Chambers makes some great observations about this. He says, “God’s purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. God is not working towards a particular finish. What we call the process, God calls the end (210).” Life is made up of moments, and who we are and how we behave and love and sacrifice and serve in those moments add up to “living it”. While I was “living” with Leukemia, I frequently would tell people that our lives had been put on hold while we dealt with this detour. Now I see how messed up that thinking is. Life just keeps happening. I didn’t get to choose if I wanted Leukemia, but I did get to make the choice each minute of the day HOW I lived with Leukemia. None of those choices, good or bad, guarantee me a “happy ending”. Even now that I am in remission, it only means I probably won’t die from Leukemia. It doesn’t promise me a long life absent of health issues. God doesn’t view our lives as a means to an end. “God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present.” It’s the process, not the end that defines living. God wants to give us immeasurably more than we could ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20 ). As much as I wish I could choose my own ending, I am learning (usually through trial and error) that His “endings” (read: “processes”) make a much better story.