A friend cut a trail, well several meandering paths, leading in and around a creek on his land. He and his wife were gracious enough to let me stay in their home while they vacation. They own two friendly dogs and some crazy cats and a beautiful piece of west Texas, if you can actually own such a thing as a part of west Texas.
I lost count of the number of times I’ve walked down to the creek on these trails in the last few days. The dogs walk with me. Actually, they trot beside me in between bursts of exploration. I look around and can’t see either one only to feel them brushing my legs moments later. The sweet smell of cedar and sage, the pink rimmed sunset above the oaks, the crunching grass under my feet, the singing cicadas, the swarming flies, the jumping grasshoppers, all of this fills me and calms me.
As I take a direction down one way and not another, I am reminded of the famous Robert Frost poem. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by.” Then I think, “That is so not true.”
There is a givenness to the passageway. It takes me where it will. (Or, at least, it takes me where my friend bothered to mow.) The meandering routes on this piece of land amidst the hills leading down to a west Texas creek is what it is. There are a couple of different routes and turns; however, all the walkways cover the same acreage: a grassy field next to a creek, dotted with oak trees. There are no beaches, no mountains, no giant Redwoods to select as a destination.
Any real choice of the kind our culture worships does not exist here. I cannot change my origins or the consequences of what happens on the road. I can accept what happens on that road, or I can fight it all the way.
I was born a white female. It is what happened. There is no choice there. My parents were Southern Baptist, first-generation college graduates. I was never given an option of parentage or class or country. When I am not careful, I become a near heartless Vulcan, sitting alone for hours on end analyzing everything in my head. In these times I exist as a personality shaped by genetics and childhood environment, both of which I am powerless to change.
The young are the worst offenders, worshiping the cult of self-determination. I was paralyzed in the past to think of all that I might pick to be and do. I can be whatever I want to be! Oh, but as we age, we realize that the life so full of options and various potentials of being has been pruned down. I do more accepting than selecting now, and I realize that I participate in the great de-limiting that is my finite existence.
I don’t mean to say I am a determinist or depressed about this lack of choice. I also don’t mean that we negate our duty to follow Christ’s commands. I’m not really talking about those kinds of choices. I mean embracing: I am a human being with a limited existence, an existence that follows basic laws of cause and effect. I am a realist and I find joy in the sheer simplicity of acceptance. I still have the chosen habits that form my character, and I can even accept or reject the givenness of life. When I am feeling especially fine with these complexities, I call it a paradox or a divine mystery.
There isn’t much more than that. Our virtual world gives us the illusion that we can recreate reality, but when the computer goes off, we are left with ourselves and the circumstances, good and bad, which sweep us along. I don’t carve my own pathway, but I sure as heck determine what I do on it. I am left with humility and repentance and love as the only real choices. I can choose those while walking the path handed to me.