When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. Maybe it was the sense of power they gave me, maybe it was the idea of multiple stories contained in one story, maybe it was just the novelty factor.
Sometimes, I would make a choice that turned out badly. My favorite character would be imperiled; a potentially fascinating door would suddenly close; an unpleasant new situation would present itself. Like many other Choose Your Own Adventurers, I’d flip frantically back through the book, trying to find the place I’d gone wrong. This was never successful. I could never get the story to go exactly how I thought it should.
Earlier this week I got to reconnect with a great mentor and friend. Cheryl was the pastor who invited me to apply for the outreach / youth worker position at the church she served in Milwaukee. She was the pastor who said to me, “You should go to seminary” and made the appointment and drove me down to Chicago at 6 AM. She was also the pastor who met two Lutheran PhD students at the Marquette theology department potluck and invited them both to church. “Maybe you can date one of them,” she said, and lo: I could, and the two of us just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary this spring.
So, Cheryl has shaped my life in profound ways. As we reminisced over lunch, I reminded her that I spent two years working at St. Paul’s, in part, because she said, “You should work here for two years and then go to seminary.”
“Wow. I forgot how bossy I was,” she said.
“But it was in the second year that I met Mike,” I said. “If I hadn’t worked another year I probably wouldn’t have met him.”
Well, perish the thought. But it made me wonder: what if I hadn’t met Cheryl, either? If I hadn’t met Mike, aside from all the obvious “wouldn’t’s”, I probably wouldn’t have put Southwestern Minnesota as one of my top preferences, and so I might not have ended up here. If I hadn’t met Cheryl, I might not have become a pastor at all.
Then there are the things that happened that led to me meeting Cheryl: I came to Milwaukee to do the Lutheran Volunteer Corps; I went to church with a woman in college who later came back to be a short term recruiter for LVC; my parents decided to join an ELCA church when I was fourteen. The list goes on.
If you had asked me, at pretty much any point in my life, to predict where I would be in 2016, never would I ever have said, “I will be a Lutheran pastor in a small town in Minnesota. I will know the names of all the engines on Thomas and Friends and I will occasionally try my hand at the Lego Movie video game because it makes my seven-year-old daughter really happy.”
It makes me really happy, too. This small town pastor / parent / partnered life challenges and sustains and wows me in ways I never could have imagined. Somehow, the choices I made, the relationships I formed, and the experiences I had have led me here. (Pro Tip: And, you know, God might have been involved in the whole thing, too.)
I couldn’t have planned it–I couldn’t have flipped forward or back in the book of my life to get this exact result–but I can’t imagine another adventure that I would choose instead.
What surprises you about the adventure you’re on right now? Is there anything you would change?