Proverbs 16:25 offers a warning to folks like me who tend to move too fast, it says, There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Maybe you let Zdeno Chara walk and kept Wade Redden. We have all fallen prey to this. Maybe we bought a house too high or sold shares too low. Maybe we embarked on a career for the wrong reasons or worse yet married for the wrong reasons. Our ability to stand at a fork in the path and go the wrong way truly staggering, we might as well admit it.
The challenge, as the writer of Proverbs helpfully points out, is that the path appears to be right, it looks good. Partly how this works is we talk ourselves into things. As we age me mostly know when we are doing this. We create an elaborate argument for why we want do something/buy something/take a certain path and we know we are really just trying to justify the decision we have already made. You know what I mean, the sort of arguments that when others say them you think, “who are you trying to convince?”
One other way we choose paths poorly, or I sometimes do at least is negative self-talk that often stops me from getting going on something that could be life-giving. Maybe you want to draw or paint or play an instrument, if you are like many people you give up before you start. Some might “start” if by that we mean make a purchase or two and then spend an hour or two learning “they suck” before they move on, personally I count those efforts as non-starters as well. I am too fat to run, too tone deaf to sing, too offbeat the drum, too unhandy to fix a bike…again what we might think looks like the “right” path in a moment is the path to death, to no paintings or music, to broken bikes, and defeat.
I believe this is where prayer and spiritual friendships come in. They are not foolproof, they do not work every time, they are not a promise that if you follow them they will always lead you to the right path (clearly if you know anything of history you know that much). Still, generally speaking, prayer, quiet reflection and contemplation can help us get onto the right path, both because slowing down can help and because God Himself might guide us if we listen. Also generally speaking, if we have friends that are true and honest and know that we will remain friends even if we disagree with them, then we have friends we can run stuff by that will give us real feedback. Listening to them can be hard (especially if their feedback is critical or involves taking the less appealing road). Being such a friend is hard too, on multiple levels—including trying to speak truth in manner that is likely to help our friends make decisions.
Is there a path you are on that appears right but is leading to death? Do you have a friend who might benefit from a bit of honest wisdom? Relationships die, artistic visions die, healthy bodies degrade, faith flounders on the rocks of life, and so it is clear we must at least try to get on the path that leads to life.
I’ve told you prayer and friendships help me, what helps you?