Has there been a time in your life when you felt life’s path was clearly defined for you, and all you had to do was take one step in front of the other to get to the end goal? I find those times comforting. It’s always nice to have a goal to work towards. It’s nice to work towards finishing a project at work or some educational degree or certificate. Sometimes it’s even nice to finish reading a good book (but too often the best ones are finished all too quickly).
And then there are times when the path before us feels less defined, and it’s more difficult to find purposeful direction. It reminds me of the often-quoted passage in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In Alice’s meanderings, she finds a Cheshire cat sitting in a tree, and she decides to ask it for directions:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
In life, we’re sure to get somewhere as long as we move forward long enough, but that isn’t always the best approach to life. There is something to be said for thoughtful planning and direction. No major life accomplishments can happen without incremental goals that lead to incremental accomplishment.
A surgeon can’t learn what he or she needs to know without years of study and practice. That type of extensive knowledge and ability must come through careful educational and practical planning.
In our everyday lives, sometimes even the little things won’t be accomplished without at least a sense of order and planning. I often have to plan when to do the laundry, or it will never get done, and one morning, everyone will find themselves bereft of socks. It’s not ideal.
My husband can tell you that I love a good list. Saturdays are often filled with lists of chores and other tasks that need to be accomplished. I find great satisfaction in marking off the accomplished to-do items.
While direction and planning and order can help one’s life, it isn’t always possible to plan what comes next. In fact, there may be times when we’re faced with many good options or even no good options, and it seems our lives lack the direction and purpose we seek.
These purposeless or directionless times can be difficult and even paralyzing. If we don’t know what lies ahead, how can we choose the correct path? In an address in 1982, Boyd Packer provided insight into these times of uncertainty when he said, “Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge [or purpose or direction], there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.”
In those moments where we must step into the dark, whether it be a leap in our belief, our life’s direction, or other paths we follow, I believe God will light our paths, even if just one step at a time.
Those moments can be difficult to face. Uncertainty is never easy to stare down, but that’s why God gives us chances to move forward without knowledge. And in those moments, He will give us the light we need, if only just for one step at a time.