Choose Your Own Adventure books were video games before we had video games. Today we play video games that allow us to explore created worlds, going on adventures and making decisions on the path through those created worlds, but in the early 80’s video games were simplistic one-screen exercises in shooting down or avoiding the bad guy without any sense of exploring. We did have Choose Your Own Adventure books, though, and I couldn’t get enough of them. At the end of each page or section of the book was a choice. The reader could choose one action which would require turning to a particular page, or another action would lead the reader to a different page. The whole book was an intersecting map of choices, a world of forked-paths to choose between. Whenever I’d reach an ending I’d turn back and make the other choice to learn all the paths of the book. Each book was a whole world to explore through decisions.
Life isn’t so different from a Choose Your Own Adventure book. We have paths before us, and we choose one or the other. I used to think life is built on only the big choices: what job to choose, married or single, whom to marry, where to live, etc. It’s true that these are the big markers of life, the things that we look to when we think about the direction of our lives, but maybe the smaller choices are as significant. Every day is full of choices, little directions we choose. Do I pass on the juicy piece of gossip or do I think better and keep quiet? Do I do the extra chore for another when I’d rather just fall into the easy chair? Do I give into the lazy negativity of cable news or do I go out of my way to understand a person who is different? There are hundreds of these kinds of choices every day. We make them without any thought, but aren’t these the real choices of life? We all get a few big choices, a chance to dramatically alter the path of living, but the little choices are there all the time, quietly defining who we are hundreds of times through the day.
In the Rule of St. Benedict it says, “Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do.” I drift along through days forgetting that every moment brings choices. The choices can lead me on an adventure where I find what is good and noble and loving. I can be a better husband, father, and friend; the opportunities are there all the time, and when I journey to that place I find an open world of discovery with new loves and fresh worlds of grace waiting for me to explore.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict