It’s a game to choose the right line. I always tell anyone traveling with me that I always get in the longest line at immigration. Yesterday I was standing in between two lines for check-out. A kind man came up and I moved to the line I had determined would be faster. When his line started moving, I told him that I guess I chose the longer line. He offered for me to go ahead of him, but I declined. I had made my choice and I needed to stick with it. Besides, no one is in that much of a hurry—it was a sign I needed to slow down. In the end, I did finish first. But it didn’t look that way all the time.
That ordinary experience is so real in our spiritual lives. It is not always obvious which way we should go. Sure, there are the blatant paths that are directly forbidden in God’s Word. He doesn’t tell us not to walk those paths because He is trying to keep us from something good. He warns us that the paths will lead us to shame and suffering for doing evil. It’s the less obvious choices we make every day that become the harder to discern. It’s the choices between doing the good things that are presented to us that require thought and prayer for discernment.
When you are faced with two roads, you have to say “Yes” to one and “No” to another. You can’t simply walk down both paths at the same time. How do you know which road to take? Often what looks best from afar can end up being the worst choice. When Abraham gave Lot the chance to choose the road he would take in Genesis 13, Lot chose the land with the most foliage. It was also the land with the most wicked people, and that place ended up destroying his family. The renown of Sodom and Gomorrah is still known in our culture from the biblical account. That was the road Lot chose.
God gave specific instructions about the road to take. He also warned that is important to keep straight on the road and not turn to the right or the left. As it says in Deuteronomy 5:32,
“So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
Once you are on the road that God has laid out for you as a Christian, it’s still possible to stray to the left and the right.
Just as I stood determining which line I figured to be going faster, I have choices to make every day about my spiritual life. I chose the line I chose because the woman in my line was at the payment while the first person in the other line was still have her things checked. I didn’t know the woman in my line would face a problem where she did not have enough money to pay for all the groceries she brought, and the clerk graciously took the time to settle it all discretely. This took extra time I did not expect. I was too far away to offer to cover the other things, but I was close enough to be patient and grateful that I could pay for what I had selected. It was the right line for me to practice patience and not bring attention to a sensitive situation. I could deflect those behind me who were growing impatient even though they had arrived after me. I knew I had chosen the right line when I got there. I was there for a purpose. It was for me—to be patient. It was for others so I could help cover a situation that was hard enough and didn’t need to be made worse by impatient shoppers making a scene.
We don’t have to choose our roads alone. God tells us:
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21).
In the end I was blessed by having chosen the shortest line. What made it short was the checkout girl. She was so good with me and with the older man behind me who seemed to know her personally. She was the one who made a difference in the lives of people who walked through her stand to be checked out. The respect and dignity and kindness she displayed in her ordinary job were a blessing to me and made up for any time that was lost.
Watch the road that you take; there may be spiritual lessons for your soul.