Thursday, March 8, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

By Lisa Karon Richardson

As a child of the 80s I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series of stories. Even at a young age the thought of kind of writing my own ending was enticing. Although I always went back and tried all the possible paths just to see if I could get to the best outcome. It was kind of like a game to make the “right” choices all the way through. Sometimes I would even cheat and take a peek ahead to make sure I was on the right course. But even then, I’d end up reading all the other choices too.

There’s certainly something intriguing about the idea that our lives could be entirely different if we happened to catch one bus instead of another, or if we turn left rather than right upon entering the grocery store. To believe that is to accept the idea that the tissue of daily life is as thin as—well—tissue.

But Psalm 31:15 says: “My times are in your hand” and Psalm 119:133 says “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”

Not that we are all mindless puppets moving through life exactly as God, the puppet master, intends as he pulls the strings. Because that’s where a delightful little thing called “free will” enters the picture.

Had I been in charge of creation you can bet your bottom dollar I never would have let something as atomically dangerous as free will enter my paradise. But God took a chance on us. He decided that a forced relationship wasn’t worth it. He wanted us to choose Him.

We get to Choose our own Adventure. Oh, and we can even cheat and check out the different paths. Just page through the Bible. There’s plenty of warnings and advice about what will happen if we make decisions that conflict with the Word, and plenty of advice and encouragement on how to choose the right path. The one that will lead us to a happy ever ending.

No, we can’t control everything that happens to us, but like CJ discussed yesterday, the turning points in our lives often hinge, not on the events themselves, but on our reaction to the events. That’s why the Bible says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God. Because the righteous are those who are seeking His guidance and allowing His influence to inform their decisions. They are letting God direct them.

Did you ever read any of the Choose your own Adventure stories? Did you like them, or was it too much pressure? Have you ever made a seemingly small decision that had a big effect?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in October, 2012 followed shortly thereafter by The Magistrate’s Folly in November.


  1. i was in high school in the 80s and didn't read the Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but I love the idea. i would've probably been just like you - choosing my path the first time through and then reading all the other paths to find the "best" outcome. i know i've done that with a couple of online romance reads where i could choose what the hero or heroine did next in the story - nice to know that there was a HEA no matter which path was chosen. it was neat to see the different paths as well. as an aspiring author - i was more in awe of the extra work for the author to have three or four different paths. i would love to have that skill.

    along the same vein, there was a movie called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, that sort addresses this type of story. i think its an R movie though, so i can't highly recommend it - but it was interesting to watch to see how well the writers integrated two life timelines simultaneously.

    oops, getting long winded, better stop now. i really liked this post.

  2. Thanks DebH. I have heard of the Sliding Doors movie. It has Gwyneth Paltrow in it, if I'm not mistaken. Haven't seen it, but it was recommended by a friend. I'll have to see if it's available on Netflix.

  3. It is on Streaming Netflix and I keep passing it by though I knew the concept. Maybe its time.

    I cant help but wonder st how different my life would have been if id made a different decision at one or two extremely important moments. They didn't seem that big at the time.

    The "if only" but I wouldn't want to change all the rest of the outcome!

  4. Ha! Deb, I know what you mean. I think it is possible to mess up God's plan--just look at Abraham and Sarah and all the grief caused by their screw-ups. And of course it's natural to look back and wonder what might be different if we'd chosen the other path. Life really is the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure story, isn't it!

  5. Glad I'm not alone in my appreciation, Dina! My husband hated them. He just wanted to read a story, and hated that he might make a "wrong" decision and end up flattened by a boulder or something. I guess it takes all kinds!

  6. Exposing my inner nerd, here. My experience with the Choose Your Own Adventure stories took place via one of those ancient computers in elementary school... the kind with the cassette tape player "software" hooked up to a TV set for a monitor. Four or five of us in my class would play as a team, hashing out the best decision. I think it was supposed to teach us computer programming, because we had to type in our choices in some sort of computer language (now obsolete, I'm sure.) Ah, thanks for the memories!

    As to those life-changing decisions? Yeah. Too many too count. Although as I get older and look back I can see where God's hand continued to guide and direct my course, even when I was running the wrong way as fast as my stubby little legs would go. Thank goodness for His mercy.

  7. I never read those books. I always thought the concept was neat, but I was busy with a baby at that time - reading Green Eggs and Ham and Are You my Mother. I like how you parallel it to the Bible and God's path for us.

  8. Niki, I feel robbed. I never got to do that in school. Although I did get to play Oregon Trail, so I guess I can't complain too much.

    And you are so so right about God's mercy. I can't imagine having to do without it.

  9. Thanks, Suzie. At least you were exposing your son to other classic literature. ;o)

  10. Those were such fun books, Lisa. My husband still had some of his, and now they're in the kids' rooms (one on the Maya, one on aliens...) We also have a new one--a Star Wars one--about a kid in the Jedi training Academy.

    And of course, there's Lost in Austen.

  11. Oh, yes Susie. I did read a "grown up" one based on Jane Austen's books. At the end of each chapter you could pick a path and if you chose wisely you could wind up with Mr. Darcy. That was really engaging!

  12. Lost in Austen.
    well, does she stay or did she go home? (that applies to both Amanda and Elizabeth, I guess...)

    No, I never read those books but I have at least seen them. I don't know if I would have liked them. My brain wants everything linear. I would have had to write out the plot on paper to see it, rather than try to juggle it on my brain. sigh.

    okay, i'm off to read a fabulous new book by an Inky. Hopefully you will all get to read it someday!

  13. I've never heard of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Not sure what that says about me...

    But the most comforting aspect of life is that we already know how the story is going to end!

  14. Deb, you may not have liked the books. Linear was not the way to describe them at all!

  15. You never saw them, CJ?! You're right about knowing the ending. I mean, If you don't take comfort in the thought of your ending it might be a signal that you need to make some changes. Amiright?

  16. I saw those books, but never had the inclination to read them. I do remember thinking...what if I didn't like the ending? And then the story would be spoiled for me.

    It's good to know someone enjoyed them.

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

  17. Ha, Anita Mae. Do you ever rewrite the ending of a story in your head. I do it all the time if I don't like the ending! This just kind o let you do it on the page so to speak.


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