Have you ever second-guessed yourself when you were going the right way all along? I had a simple little experience with this last week, but the lesson it taught me was pretty profound.
My husband was out of town Saturday, and the weather was lovely, so I took my children on a little two-mile or so hike up to a gazebo overlook on our neighbors’ private land nearby. Lil Miss had been wanting to do this for a long time, since her grandparents used to take her up there to see the view. I hadn’t actually been up there myself, but it looked like it would be easy to find.
A couple of different paths looked like they led to the gazebo, but I was pretty confident about which one was the right way. We trudged up a very steep slope, but as we neared the top, I second-guessed myself. I saw another path, going downhill, that looked like it was going more in the direction of the gazebo. I sent Lil Miss up a little further to investigate the path we were on, and she reported that it turned off in the opposite direction than we wanted to go. So I decided we must not have been on the right path after all. We backtracked and took the downhill path instead, only to realize that there was absolutely no way to get up the steep slope to the overlook from there. At this point, Lil Miss was upset, stomping her feet and pouting, saying she just wanted to go home. But I cajoled her on, since we were so close, and now I was certain of the way.
And so we turned around, again, and climbed up to the very same spot we had been before. After going only about twenty feet further than where we had been when we bailed, we saw that another hidden path turned off and went straight to the gazebo! If we had kept going just a little further, we wouldn’t have had to go up that steep part of the path twice. It had been impossible to see the path high up along the ridge while we had been down below it.
How often in life, when things get steep, do we start to second-guess ourselves? As soon as an alternative way presents itself, we question the validity of the path we’re on. We’re suddenly so eager to just assume we’re on the wrong path simply because it doesn’t seem to be headed in the direction of our ultimate destination. Instead of pushing ahead through our doubt, we immediately change course for another path that looks more welcoming. It would have been so much simpler to keep going just a little further, and then we would have been high up enough to know for sure if it was the right way.
Now, the mistake hadn’t cost us much, just a few minutes of time and some effort. But it made me think about the times in life when bailing for a deceptively easier or more direct way costs a lot more. I think of marriages that fall apart, when one or both parties decide that the marriage just isn’t the right path. Did they know that absolutely and totally for sure? Or were they simply tired of walking uphill when things with their spouse got strained? Were they lured by another path that seemed more promising? The sad thing about this is that, depending on how far down the new path you decide to go, it can be very difficult to get back to where you were before you decided to bail.
I’ve faced this temptation in my own marriage. There were many times, years ago, that I thought I was sure I had married the wrong person, and that I’d be much happier not being married at all, or being married to someone else. That downhill path can start to look pretty appealing when the uphill struggle gets more difficult, especially with children in tow. But I had been simply contrasting my perception of my current reality with my assumptions about an imagined alternative reality. It’s easy to do this when we can’t see the future clearly.
I’m relieved that I stuck with it and didn’t fall for the deception, because now that I’m higher up, I’m 100% sure that the path I’m on has always been the correct one. I held on to my core belief that the marriage relationship is ordained by God and not something to be discarded; that once entered into, this covenant is a blessing in life and binding for all eternity. I realize that divorce is necessary in rare instances, but the decision should be very carefully evaluated, and only after all other options have been exhausted.
I’ve seen people bail from the right path in other areas of life as well: career, a hobby, decisions about where to live, and religious choices. It’s sad when people only realize the original path was the right one for them, after they’d already forsaken it for another. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t throw in the towel at the first, or second, or even third time you doubt yourself. Stay on your path and keep going up a little further to where your perspective is clearer and surer, and then make the decision about whether or not to turn back.
And what if you’ve already bailed? Should you stomp and huff and give up on your goal altogether? No! Not now that you’re certain of the way. You can retrace your steps, climb uphill, and get back to where you had been before. There is always a cost to pay, but there is also always hope.
The view from the overlook certainly was inspiring. It was worth the climb. The real challenge was getting the kids to leave! Little Toad plopped down on his belly to play in the rocks and dirt, refusing to come along when it was time to get moving. Hmmm, might there be there may a lesson in this, too?