Recently, I was flying home from a long weekend, and I found myself once again frustrated with the uncertainty of the future. As a soon-to-be college graduate, my life thus far has been planned up to the exact moment I walk across the stage to receive my diploma. As a child, I left any life-altering decision making to my wise parents. Even as a college student, the biggest decision I had to make was my major, and after that my adviser opened a magical filing cabinet and handed me a list of all the classes I needed to take in chronological order over the next eight semesters.
But now, on the brink of the real-world, I find myself in seat 29F, peering through the airplane window as the world shrinks below me-- a canvas of dusk in the aftermath of the setting sun. As I watch a ribbon of water carve back and forth across the land before disappearing into the hazy horizon, I find myself enjoying the new perspective.
I imagine myself as a character in one of those video games where you navigate a kayak down a river by pushing buttons with x's and squares and there are always some sort of obstacles to avoid and prizes to claim throughout the journey. But if you touch the edge of the course more than three times, your avatar explodes or disappears or something equally as traumatic happens and you end up back at the starting line of level one. While my gaming skills are severely lacking, I always appreciate that I can guide my character from above. If there is a prize box containing an extra life near the left bank of the river, I can see it from far enough away to respond accordingly. There is a sort of comfort in knowing what dangers or possibilities lie ahead.
In real life, however, the perspective is much more limited. Everything looks much different from water-level when the only method of steering is the paddle in my hands. I'm left wondering what lies just beyond my point of view. Should I follow the call to global mission? Or should I find a way to serve others closer to home? Sometimes the decisions are paralyzing and I find myself gripping the paddle apprehensively, holding it just above the current, afraid to paddle in any specific direction. What if I go left and I miss the prize box to the right? What if I make too many mistakes and end up back where I started?
I begin to trace the river's path onto the cold, damp oval of glass, wishing that I could see what life will be like six months from now. If only I could know where I will be two, four, ten years, then it would be easier to make long-term decisions...
It is in that moment of contemplation that I realize an important feature of this particular river. It's course is very clear for quite some distance. I could easily guide a poor, lost soul between the two banks for over a mile. But eventually the water disappears completely as the earth meets the sky. The gradual disappearance makes me uneasy and I begin to think that maybe the aerial perspective I've been enjoying doesn't quite live up to my expectations. From way up here, I could tell my kayaking avatar where to go for a while, but if she asked me to clarify her final destination, I would not have an answer.
Later, as the seat belt sign illuminates and I return my tray to its upright position, we begin our descent. With each drop in altitude, I am increasingly grateful for the return of surface-level perspective. I may not be able to see every bend in the river ahead from my kayak. There will be areas of rough currents interspersed with unbelievable calm. The upcoming twists and turns are largely unknown, but long-term, I know exactly where I am headed.
You see, I am not alone in the kayak. My heavenly Co-pilot has charted the waters. He may not immediately disclose the reasons behind a sudden change in direction or an unexpected series of rapids, but He has shared with me our final destination. And the certainty of eternal joy is more significant than any "long-term" decision I will make throughout the journey.
As the plane skids to a stop along the runway, I dip the edge of my paddle into the water, slicing tentatively through the reflective surface. My Navigator gives a reassuring nod, and my strokes become gradually stronger, steadier as the journey continues. For the first time, I appreciate the smallest details around me-- the warmth of the sun on my skin, the gentle, splashing rhythm of the paddle. From the sky, I never would have noticed the minnows swimming alongside us or the bouquets of wildflowers along the grassy bank. I do not know where I will be in a few short months, but I do know that the future is secure in God's hands. And in the meantime, the view is beautiful.