“… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being conformed to His death…”
“I press on in order that I may lay hold of that…”
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus.”
− Paul in his letter to his friends in Philippi
It has often been said that life is a journey. And I believe that is so. But every journey I’ve been on has a destination, a goal, a place to get to. I’ve yet to meet anyone who set out to go nowhere.
For most of us, that journey seems to be at best random, at worst misdirected. We slide through life following our noses to the next place, randomly picking scents that smell good to us for a time. Then something else catches our attention and off we go, veering here and there into the vast frontier of life experiences.
No wonder we’re so restless.
Then there are those whose path is one of indiscriminate destruction. Careening here and there, leaving broken souls and calamity in their wake, these people pepper our lives with pain. To those married to such a person, or raised by someone of this sort, life begins to look more like a destruction derby, round and round a dusty track of defeat.
Where are we going? Where are we meant to go? And why is the getting there so filled with pain?
These are the questions we ask ourselves, the queries we spend our entire lives pursuing, whether we realize it or not.
Why else do we set goals? What other reason is there for all this quest to figure ourselves out? Why the bitterness so many end up with at the close of their lives?
The Bible is filled with stories of men headed somewhere. Abraham to a “land I will show you”, Moses from an Egyptian palace, through the wilderness, to the edge of the Promised Land. David, from the hills surrounding Bethlehem to the halls of a kingdom.
Women too, seem drawn to a particular place they are meant to be. Ruth the Moabitess determined to let nobody hold her back from living amongst the people of Promise. Knowing they would despise her, she went anyway. Her declaration to her mother-in-law, Naomi, sounding more like a life plan than simply a declaration of loyalty.
The list goes on and on. Esther to the king’s bedroom, Mary to the manger, Lydia to the riverside, Paul to Macedonia. Men and women called and directed by God to go somewhere.
I was a young woman when my journey took its first terrible turn. Up ‘til then I’d coasted with ease through an idyllic childhood. Never knowing any real pain other than the occasional conflict, life was as it was supposed to be— good and happy and normal.
Yet in all that goodness, a vague dissatisfaction had set in. An uneasy sense that there ought to be more. More what? I had no idea, just more.
When, inexplicably, in my twenties I began to lose my hearing, that flickering flame of restlessness ignited into a full-fledged inferno of entitled fury.
How dare God do this to me!
Wasn’t His job to make life good? As long as I followed His rules He was supposed to make everything right. To bless me. To give me everything I needed and even most of what I wanted to make life happy and rich and full and fulfilling.
Soon I settled into a better solution. God was going to heal me, that was it! I envisioned myself a crowning glory of God’s power displayed for all to see. His poster child of gleaming joy. Arms raised, I would declare to all the world that God is good, just look at me and see His promise fulfilled.
What a story this would be! And of course, humble woman that I was, I would be absolutely resolute in giving all the glory to God. Just look at how God takes care of His own— especially those who follow the rules.
Wouldn’t everyone want to follow Him then?
Only He didn’t heal me. The tests came back showing further decline. The doctors were dismayed. Deafness was mentioned.
And my world fell apart.
The smooth sailing that had characterized my life had run into gale force winds and I had no equipment to handle it.
And though that’s a story for another day, (you can read the rest, if you like, here) I am now absolutely certain that it was God who propelled me into that storm and God who kept me there.
I did go deaf. I am still deaf. And I believe He wants me deaf.
And all this has to do with journey- my journey, because now I know the destination. I know exactly where I’m going.
I’m still not crazy about this section of the route. The bumps can be jarring, the twists and turns wear me out at times, but I’m on my way to where I’m supposed to go- to where I want to be.
My destination is right up close to the heart of God.
That’s where He’s taking me and He knows the way. That’s all He’s ever wanted for you and me, ever since that horrifying day in the Garden when we broke away from Him in the first place. That first sin that separated us from Him, setting us on a course of self-centered self-destruction far from His heart.
He wants me back. He wants you back.
And for some of us- for most of us, the only way we’re ever going to get there is through suffering.
Its not a pretty thought.
And yet, I can say now, after years and years of this hard thing, it’s worth it! This place He has brought me to, filled as it is with hurt and loss, is a good place.
Up close, He is all I ever wanted and more than I ever dreamed.
If your journey is taking you through some rough spots, will you take a little while to think about where you’re supposed to be headed in the first place?
I wish I had.
All that rage down deep came from a heart confused. Had I known His craving to connect my heart to His, I could have climbed into His comfort while He held me there. Instead I fought and demanded and made a mess of soul.
I’m still on that journey. Getting closer now, I’ve caught a whiff of His beauty.
Though suffering still scares me, I know where it leads. And I know where I’m going. And I want there.
I want Him.
From my heart on the way,