A Hand to Hold

March 24, 2008
By Julia Merlin, Alpharetta, GA

Life is composed of millions of choices, and each decision we make forever alters our chosen path. Some choices are small: what to eat for breakfast in the morning, what shoes to grab on your way out the door. But some choices are monumentous: how fast to drive on that windy road, the friends you make and the people you trust. Some choices you can come back from with little more than a laugh and a few words of apology. But some people aren’t that lucky. Some choices last forever.
God designed families to act as buffers against the world, a safe haven in which we can be absolutely ridiculously stupid, but yet in which we will forever be safe. We grow up in families for a reason. Everyone makes mistakes; small ones and big ones, mistakes that last a second or ones that seem to never end. But we learn from our errors, and rise from the ashes of our failures to choose again.
The problem with growing up is that after a while, we have to learn to think for ourselves. The mistakes we make can not be covered up or smoothed over by Mom and Dad. We come face to face with imperative choices, ones that can not be ignored or passed off to someone else. We have to realize, as a society and as individuals, that what we say and what we do matters in the long run, for our future and the future of those around us.
Everyone comes to a moral standstill from time to time, a deviation from their typical life journey, a proverbial fork in the road. One choice may seem easier, with no dips or turns visible in the near future, while the other looks potentially treacherous but ultimately rewarding. When we are children, our parents hold our hands as we walk down the second road, comfort us as trees wave in the wind, and clap us on the back when we reach the pot of gold on the other side. Gradually, we have to learn to let go of that anchor and remove our hand from theirs. We have to confront the animals lurking in the shadows, overcome the trepidation in our own hearts, and embrace the success at the end. That is not to say the second path is the most obviously rewarding. On the contrary, the first path seems the easiest and is most often chosen for pure simplicity alone. But the easiest choices are not always the most substantial in the long run, and part of growing up is looking temptation in the eye and being able to walk away.
We can not be afraid to follow our own paths and make our own choices. The choices we make and the actions that follow create who we become, but they do not define who we are. We all want to hold on to our parents’ hands a little longer, tucking our consequences away and relying on their choices to get us through. But we need to learn to embrace every choice that comes our way. We will make mistakes, and we will turn down the wrong path from time to time. But letting go of that hand means that even after we make the wrong choice, we have the ability to turn around and choose again. Our lives rest in our hands, in our choices and our mistakes. It is an uplifting blessing, and an inhibiting curse. But, if we allow ourselves, we all have the ability to turn those mistakes into lessons and those wrong choices into stepping stones for future opportunities.

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