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We may all seem to be going in the same direction, but when we get to the crossroads of a world in flux the human parade splits: Some emphasize the need to preserve the values and structures that brought us to this point. Others warn that standing still while the world goes on will be our downfall. So we wander in a world of expectations we can neither see nor embrace.

Breaking news: the world is a landmine of differences.

No doubt about it. The direction we take at this new crossroad in time will not simply affect the future of the United States. It will determine the history of the world. The future depends on whether we make serious decisions about our own roles in shaping a future that fulfills God’s will for the world, or simply choose to suffer the decisions made by others intent on imposing their own vision of tomorrow.

This moment is a daunting one. At every crossroad, every one of us has three possible options: The first choice is to quit a road that is going somewhere we do not want to go. We can move in another direction. We can distance ourselves from the difficulties of it all. We can leave the mission unfinished. The second alternative is to surrender to the forces of resistance that obstruct our every step toward wholeness. We can succumb to the fatigue of the journey that comes from years of being ignored, ridiculed, or dismissed for our ideas. We can go quietly into oblivion, taking on the values of the day or going silent in the face of them. This choice, in other words, is to crawl into a comfortable cave with nice people and become a church, a culture, a society within a society. We can just hunker down together and wait for the storm to calm down, go by, and become again the nice warm womb of our beginnings.

The third choice is to refuse to accept a moral deterioration of the present and insist on celebrating the coming of an unknown, but surely holier, future. The third choice is to go on steadfastly, even if we are not sure what we will find at the end of it. The third choice is to follow the path of the prophets of old. It is to echo those who came before us who spoke the voice and vision of God for the world. It is to risk, as the prophets did, not really being heard at all—at least not until long after the fact.

The third choice is a choice that demands great courage. But courage, however apparently fruitless, is not without its own reward. Anaïs Nin wrote once, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” And courage is a prophet’s road.

The prophets had a choice. So do we.

—from The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)