An excerpt from The Principle of the Path
Not too long ago I was being interviewed by a national organization that does Christian events for men. One of the questions they asked me went something like this: “Reverend Stanley, what would you say to the husband and father who has not done a very good job managing his ﬁnances and because of the downturn in the economy ﬁnds himself in real ﬁnancial trouble? What would you suggest someone in that situation do?” I said, “I have no idea.” At that point the interviewer asked the camera operator to pause for a moment.
He looked at me a bit bewildered. “No idea? You don’t have any advice to offer?” “No,” I said. Then I went on to explain that an economic downturn doesn’t so much cause problems as it reveals them.
Hard times reveal where we are (and where we aren’t) faster than anything else. The person who wrote the interview questions was looking for steps. A ﬁx. A to-do list. But if a man chooses the path of ﬁnancial irresponsibility, he will eventually arrive at an unenviable destination. An economic downturn just speeds up the trip.
What’s true ﬁnancially is also true relationally, academically, spiritually, physically, and professionally. In the rearview mirror it becomes obvious that we are all following a path of some kind.
What we experience as unrelated, isolated events are really steps in a speciﬁc direction. And like every physical path you’ve ever ventured down, this path has a speciﬁc destination.
Now, if you can’t see this in your own life, I’m sure you can see it in others’ lives. When you meet people who have enviable lives ﬁnancially or spiritually, isn’t it true that they always have stories to tell? When you start asking questions, don’t you always discover that where they are is the result of a sequence of decisions that formed the path that led them to where they are? And, of course, the opposite is true. When you meet someone whose life is less than enviable, his story usually reveals a pattern or path as well. And at some point in his story, you think, You should have seen that coming! You should have known where those decisions were going to take you. In other words, he should have been able to predict his current destination based on the path he was traveling.
Looking back on our lives, the paths are evident. Looking at others’ lives, the paths are evident. It is when we look ahead that we lose sight of the fact that in every arena of life, we are moving in a speciﬁc direction toward a speciﬁc destination.
Looking ahead we are often deceived into thinking that life is a series of unrelated decisions, and somehow we will end up where we want to be simply by force of will or luck. Or as I’ve heard so many people say, “It’ll work out somehow.” But if you can see a path in the rearview mirror that reﬂects where you’ve been and explains where you are, then there must be a path ahead of you as well. A path that, like all paths, has a speciﬁc and oftentimes predictable destination.