This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ - Jeremiah 6:16
Life is full of crossroads. Like so many other young people, I stand at a particular set of crossroads. What will be the path of my future? It feels increasingly difficult to discern that path when there are so many things in the world distracting us from ‘the good way’. So often it seems that the response of the world around us is a resounding ‘we will not walk in it.’
Whatever stage we are in life, we are always required to make decisions, whether that be what to eat for breakfast or which political party to vote for. Some decisions are lower stakes than others. Some decisions give us the illusion of choice without really giving us any choice at all. Some people are required to make impossible decisions: to choose between heating and eating, for example.
Psychologists have identified a phenomenon called ‘choice paralysis’. As consumers in Western society, we are being presented with more and more options every day. I can go into a cafe and be presented with 12 different types of coffee. Initially, this may seem like a great thing, but being presented with too many options with very little to compare one from the other can overwhelm me and make me a less effective decision-maker. Life today is full of these micro choices, from what we watch on the internet to what we buy at the supermarket. Society today is not helping people to make good, confident decisions about their lives, or to risk low-level failure that might help us grow.
When we stand at a crossroads, the prophet Jeremiah’s suggestion is this: ‘ask for the ancient paths.’ When talk of self-improvement and aspiration becomes imprecise and vague, these ancient paths have offered me practical tools for my own life and my life with others. For example, in a world characterized by transience and distance, it is easy to feel isolated, like my decisions are made in a bubble, disconnected from the world around me. But St Benedict’s image of a Christian life marked by stability and closeness of a real community is healing, and makes me look around and notice those walking beside me who offer me friendship and guidance. It also inspires me to build a community that reaches out to others and offers them the same.
I am learning what it means for the Christian life of discipleship to not be a destination but a way. I am grateful for communities like the LCSB in which we can seek ‘the good way’ together. I am grateful for the conversations I’ve had with different people in the Community in which we can create a brave space for asking questions and pondering together, even if the answers don’t always come to us clearly. I may not know exactly what is next for me, but I can respond to this ancient path of shared and mutually responsible living echoed in the wisdom of St Benedict.
23rd November 2022