All the Difference
It may well be that Robert Frost was the first person to pin the words to a piece of paper with the ink in his pen... but he probably wasn't the first person to think about the difference it makes when we choose this way instead of that way. His well-known "Road Less Traveled" certainly encourages us to ponder the path we take even if only for a little while before veering off in another direction. Will it be the well-worn path of so many others or will we take a trek off the beaten path? Might we even blaze a brand-new trail of our own? Will we seek to fulfill someone else's expectations for our lives or choose to venture in directions that make our hearts sing?
Rob Bell makes some really good observations about several maladies of the human spirit. He writes about boredom, cynicism, and despair in his book How to Be Here. He says that boredom is "lethal" because "boredom says, There's nothing interesting to make here." Distinct from boredom yet just as lethal, Bell claims, is cynicism which "points out all the ways something could go wrong, how stupid it is, and what a waste of time it would be. Cynicism says, There's nothing new to make here." Oh, but then there's despair which is "like a dull thud in the heart. Despair says, Nothing that we make matters."
If ever we shrug our shoulders when asked why we aren't doing this or doing that and we accompany that shrug with the response, What difference would it make?, we've hit a patch of despair and slipped in. And when we say or even think that what we do or don't do doesn't make any difference, we are essentially declaring that we don't matter. And there's zero truth in that. To be alive means mattering. To live matters. And because life matters, every little thing makes all the difference.
A Lutheran pastor named Brian Stoffregen who regularly writes online Bible commentaries includes an interesting nugget in a number of his pieces that goes something like this: The most important thing is not what you believe but what difference does it make that you believe. There are some faith traditions that make a big deal about Jesus dying for us - and that's pretty amazing - but what about Jesus living for us? And not only for us but also with and in us? If we believe that, what difference would it make in our living? Yeah. All the difference.
Not that believing this eliminates the challenges of making choices. Or the zigs and zags in our paths. Or even the patches of despair or puddles of boredom. And it certainly doesn't make us immune to cynicism or to its poison in others. But there are plenty of perks. Bell names one of them toward the end of his book when he encourages us to remember that "efficiency and production are not God's highest goals for your life. Joy is." And what difference would the presence of joy make in our lives? Yeah. All the difference!