Where is the path of your life leading you, and how did you get on that road? We often hear people say that God has a plan for us, but is God’s path the one we would choose for ourselves?
As a boy, I wanted to be many things when I grew up: an astronaut, a writer, a computer programmer, a lawyer, a teacher. What path my life would take—who knew? As it unfolded, I dropped out of college after two years and wound up flipping pizzas as an assistant manager at Dominos. After that, I enlisted in the Air Force and became a firefighter. By then, I was twenty and married with two young children. That was not the path I had expected my life to take.
When I look back over the road now—30 years later—I’m amazed how my path twisted and turned to end up in the place I had dreamed about as a teen. The Air Force helped me finish my college degree and later sent me to law school. After I became a lawyer, I was assigned to teach at the Air Force Academy, and when I retired from the military in 2012 (after 21 years), I became a law professor and a published historical fiction author. I could never have predicted where all those forks in the road would lead me, yet somehow I can’t help but feel that I’ve wound up exactly where I belonged…
Jeremiah—a prophet in the Old Testament—lived in the Kingdom of Judah during the sixth century before Christ. He was called by God to prophesy to the Israelites about the coming destruction of Jerusalem: to reveal the sins of God’s people and condemn the priests and false prophets of his time. His path made him, perhaps, the most unpopular person in Israel, leading to his many persecutions.
I don’t think Jeremiah’s path was the one that he would have chosen for himself, either. In the first chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, he recalls what God told him when setting that path before him:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
Jeremiah resisted this call, saying, “Ah, Lord God! … I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” But God answered, “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:5−8, NAB). Jeremiah obeyed (reluctantly) and became one of the greatest prophets to have ever lived.
Not many of us will receive as direct a call from God as Jeremiah did, nor will many of our paths lead us to deliver a message to the world that might get us executed. But surely God has a plan for each of our lives. Our job is to be faithful and try to stay on the path that God sets before our feet.
As I look back over my life’s journey, I see the many times I’ve strayed from God’s path, only to reach up and accept His loving hand of forgiveness and grace to get back on His road again. Still, God has somehow made my winding path straight and led me today to a patchwork of faith and love and joy … and who knows where else it will lead before I’m done on this earth.
Where is your path leading you? Are you on the road that God wants for you? If so, hang on and enjoy the scenery. But even if you’re not where you should be, know that God can find you in that wilderness or along that winding path and lead you back to where you belong.
Novels and short stories from Catholic Teen Books often demonstrate how God can take the winding paths of our lives and make them lead straight back to Him:
In my historical fiction trilogy, The Harwood Mysteries, Xan is orphaned when bandits attack his village in medieval England. The winding paths of his journey lead him to live with the monks of Harwood Abbey, and to travel the long road to a bustling city and a haunted cathedral. Even as he succeeds in solving mysteries and being an instrument for good in God’s hands, his faith is challenged as he wanders along the strange path that God has chosen for his life.
In Leslea Wahl's eXtreme Blindside, teen snowboarder Jake Taylor continues to struggle with the complications of his celebrity status, while trying to figure out who's been sabotaging other athletes, and determine God's plan for his unusual life.
Heaven's Hunter by Marie Keiser tells the story of Randall Yung, who sets out to find his friend's killer and avenge his death. He has no idea that there is a God--never mind that God has other plans for him and that his life is about to change forever.
In Susan Peek's new release, Saint Cloud of Gaul: The Prince Who Traded Kingdoms, young Prince Cloud, grandson of the mighty King Clovis and heir to the Kingdom of Orleans, is suspiciously summoned to his uncle's castle. Little does he know his world is about to implode. Hurled into a life of danger, where his royal identity must remain hidden at all costs, Cloud struggles to know God's will for his life and eventually stumbles upon the only Kingdom worth fighting for.
In Theresa Linden's contemporary story Standing Strong, Jarret returns from an encounter with God only to find himself facing familiar temptations, while his twin brother, Keefe, tries to discern what steps to take in his life now. Could God really be calling him to a religious vocation?
In T.M. Gaouette's Faith & Kung Fu series, Gabriel struggles with his vocation, wondering what God's plan is for his life.