Over ten years ago, I faced a pretty pivotal decision in my life.
I was on staff with Young Life — an amazing youth ministry reaching out to teens who didn’t know God and helping them meet Jesus and grow in their faith — trying to start a new ministry in Storrs, CT. My best friend had moved up here to help start it.
We had no money, very little local support, and only two churches that were willing to financially support us (and one was a fundamentalist church that had an average attendance of less than 20). But we had a vision and a dream and a clear sense of calling from God.
Because I wasn’t drawing a paycheck at the time, I had to get a second job. I ended up working as a line cook at a fairly high-end Zagat-rated fine dining restaurant right in Storrs. It was a great experience.
A bunch of the kids I was working with got hired as dishwashers, so I got to hang out with them. When I was hired, I was seriously under-qualified for the job (that is a trend in my life… pretty much true of every job I have ever had). But within a few months I had worked from prep to pantry to grill to sauté.
At the time, we had a morning discipleship bible study for teens that met at our house at 6AM on Fridays. Believe it or not, sometimes we would have as many as 20 kids jammed into our living room, eating Sugar Shack donuts and studying the bible. It was pretty awesome!
Then, on those same days, I would be working the line at the restaurant and not get home til after midnight. That makes for a long day! But this is what it took to get the ministry off the ground (which it eventually did!)
I remember a conversation I had with a friend during this time. He knew my passion for cooking as well as for ministry. The schedule I was living was pretty crazy — working 50-60 hours a week for a ministry that wasn’t paying me and then picking up another 20-25 at a restaurant to try and pay my bills.
He asked me if I thought I should just quit the ministry and pursue a culinary career instead.
For some reason, today that conversation came back to me. I hadn’t thought about it in years. But that was a key decision time… I was close to giving up ministry and just pursuing culinary. Real close.
And now I wonder if I didn’t make the wrong decision.
If I had gone with culinary at the time, (1) I would probably own my own restaurant by now; (2) I never would have had to go through what I have this past year (and 12 years really), and most importantly (3) I would never have hurt the people I hurt.
I guess you can never know whether a decision was right or wrong. Would the world be better off if we had never started Young Life in Northeast CT… and if the church was never planted? Young Life is now pretty much gone and the church has endured tremendous hurt and pain. Would I be better off?
How I answer that question depends on what day (or time) you ask me.
I know you don’t get any do-overs in life. Life is not a choose-your-own-adventure where you can simply re-start if you don’t like the ending (I always ended up getting shot during a poker game on page 53… not sure why I couldn’t avoid that).
Anyway… for whatever reason, that conversation came back to me today and it made me realize how different life would have been if I had made a different decision.
I don’t really know what any of this means… I have no pithy conclusion or moral or application… except that the answer as to whether one decision is better than another is kind of unanswerable… yet, to me, a lot of times lately, it feels like the other decision would have been better.