I sat around the table with couples and small families the other night, each on the verge of a new endeavor.
For some, it was the hope of life and careers in a new part of the country, a faraway city and purpose that called out to them with distinct clarity that others around them recognized, too. For others, it was the call to greater openness, to see the world and God and themselves with fresh perspective, not worrying about checking the boxes of others’ expectations for a “safe career path” or “the right way” to do things.
Each of us around that table faced a much different sort of adventure, but that’s OK when we know life isn’t about doing the same thing everyone else is doing; life is about forging and finding our own paths in the wild world.
There is a new path before each of us. There is a new path before you, too.
No matter the path before you, you must take it.
You must go.
Finding Your Path
Adventures don’t start until you’re off the beaten path, a friend once said. Any real voyage worth taking causes us to leave behind the status quo, the comfortable normalcy that we’re hesitant to leave. Leaving always tears something apart—whether physical distance from family or friends, or a career or possible job security, or the simplistic faith of your childhood. Most confounding is the internal wrestling match of trying to be content and hopeful where you are, but knowing in your bones that you’re meant to be somewhere else, doing something else.
You must take it.
You must go.
How People Will React When You Forge a New Path
Here’s the thing about setting out on a new path: it’s filled with the nervous tension of a wedding day, with the expectations of onlooking friends, wondering if you’re really going to do what you said you’re going to do. It is your blind date with destiny, or fate, or God’s will—however you rationalize the unforgiving urge to leave your home and take the new path.
Some people will wish you well and never talk to you again. That is fine. They were only friends of the road.
Others will be so excited for you and text you encouraging messages on the day or week of your new journey. And then you will never hear from them again, until they want to visit you in your new city or when your new endeavor becomes successful, and they pretend you were always best friends. That is fine. They are only misleading themselves in thinking they’ve always been on your team and by your side, but subconsciously they’re trying to fill a small void of approval: “Look at these brave people I’m associated with.”
Still others, a very small percentage of the people you know, will show up when you need them, when you’re going crazy at the end of a career choice you anticipated would go much differently, or a relationship that didn’t pan out, or a good life routine that just fizzled into meh. A select few will listen to your stories, your cusswords and emotional recollections of what went wrong and who’s to blame. And they won’t try to correct you; they are people who understand what it’s like to be at the bottom of their own failures and fractured expectations. They don’t need to rescue you, and they don’t need to fix you, and they sit around the table with you, toasting to the rugged, delightful, painful, confusing, beautiful journey you share together, however brief it is.
Friends of the Road vs. Friends of the Heart
There is a vast difference between those friends of the road and friends of the heart. You don’t need many friends of the heart when you’ve got good ones, people who will hold space for your vulnerability and mistakes. Friends of the road surround us in each place we live, but friends of the heart will carry on across distances and time, and we’ll remind each other of “that one time” and “when we lived in that little town.”
Friends of the road will try to keep you on the same path they’re on. It’s all they know, and some of them may believe you’re going astray if you no longer choose to live the same way they live. But God gives friends of the heart who release and empower you to take new paths, to split from the road they’re on, because they know your inner journey and your outward path are utterly necessary and required for your progress—in work, in faith, in relationships, in life.
No matter what path lies before you, you must take it.
You must go.
Here’s to the journey.
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