In the 1980’s I was a typical teenage mall rat. Every Saturday afternoon my friends and I headed to the mall to hang out. We rarely bought anything, just walked around hoping for some adventure and of course to meet new people.
I remember at times being in a place where I had to make a decision about which direction to go—down the escalator, straight ahead, to the right—and I would feel a tinge of panic. “Which way should I go?” I would question, “ Someone I am supposed to meet could be somewhere in this mall. I have to make the right decision or I could completely mess up my destiny.”
This was my first experience with the idea of fate. Although I was much less dramatic about it as time went on, I still carried this idea that we only have one path, one destiny to live, so we better get it right.
Throughout my early adulthood that seemed to work for me. “I am destined to have this career, this job, be in this relationship, live in this house,” I assumed. The path seemed clear to me. I would pray and know exactly what I needed to do. I was living out my destiny.
And then I had a job opportunity. I was working in a school I loved, but I was offered a position in a school much closer to home. “OK,” I decided, “I’ll just pray about it. God will make the path clear, and I’ll know exactly which job I’m destined to take.” So I prayed about it. And nothing came. Then I made a pros and cons list. And it was not clear. Then I prayed some more. And there was still no answer. Then I asked people for their opinions. My confusion persisted. Then I read scripture and self-help books and meditated. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I felt like I was knocking on a door with no one behind it. “Hello God,” I felt I was calling into the emptiness, “Are you there? I need help here! I need an answer.” Still nothing. Needless to say, I was not happy. I could not possibly make this decision on my own.
Then I decided to try one last ditch effort to find some clarity. I took a beloved book by Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, and prayed that I would randomly open it up to a page that would make my path clear. I was hoping for a word or phrase that would represent one of the schools, and I would know without a doubt which choice to make. So I prayed and then opened the book. This was written at the top of the page, “Knowing who you are and why you came here—that you are a child of God and that you came here to heal and be healed—is more important than knowing what you want to do.”
Suddenly I knew that I was not going to get my clear answer. God really didn’t care which school I chose. That seemed scandalous to me. God really was fine with whatever decision I made.
The real question I needed to ask myself was, “Can I use the gifts I’ve been given in either position?” I had spent time in the past meditating on what my specific gifts to the world were, and I had discerned that I am on this earth to comfort, calm, ease, and soothe others. That is my particular brand of healing in the world.
I could use those gifts in either school and probably a thousand other places. So the bottom line was I just got to decide what felt better to me in that moment. There really wasn’t a right or wrong answer. I could “heal and be healed” in either circumstance. So I picked one and never looked back.
I still believe there are probably some choices in our lives that are specifically meant to be. We will recognize them by the fact that they don’t let us go, that we feel them beckoning us, calling to us, drawing us towards them, even when we don’t give them energy. Listen to those callings. Notice them. Follow them.
However, more and more I feel that our lives are less about what we are supposed to do and more about what gifts we are meant to share with the world in the unique way we choose and what lessons we are meant to learn along the way.
I no longer feel the panic of the teenager standing at the escalator- wondering if I should go up or down. I know my destiny is in either direction. I know my destiny is in what I have to give to the world and what I have to learn from each experience.
I know that I “am a child of God”, that I “came here to heal and be healed”. The details are not nearly as important as I once believed. There is no pressure to get it all right. Anything I do in the name of healing, of growth, of love, for myself and others, is exactly my destiny.
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