On a Mission Part Three: With the Journey Comes a Lesson

My impatience with the road we were on led me to take off into the forest with my eyes on the peak in front of us.  I knew that peak was where we needed to end up and I just wasn’t satisfied with the current direction the road was taking us.  I was confident in my ability to get us to where we needed to end up.  If we had stayed on the road a while longer, it would have eventually put us in the right direction with little trouble and taken us within a kilometer of our intended destination.

I just didn’t know or trust what I was reading on the map.  Sometimes it’s a little hard to interpret what you see on paper with what you see in reality.  Afterwards, when we returned to the ranch on the road and realized that it did put us where we wanted to be, we could correctly read the map.  Hindsight usually explains things best!

I realize I often approach life like I approached this task to scout out new country.  I usually have a goal in mind that I head for, but sometimes I can’t seem to find the route I need to reach my intended mark.  I have been given a road map—the Bible, and a guide—the Holy Spirit.

Side note: I’ve heard many people say, the Bible is up for your interpretation and therefore can be interpreted differently according to what you want it to say.  Sure it can, just like any map.  But like any map, there is absolute truth you can’t deny.  It says it like it is.  That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in—given as a counselor or as I like to think a guide.  He’s the one who knows the “lay of the land” so to speak, and can show me the direction I need to head.

Well that’s all fine and dandy if I listen carefully and don’t rush off in impatience or in self-confidence—like I often do.  I end up taking some pretty interesting routes and detours that in hindsight I realize there may have been an easier way.

The one thing that bothers me is that there is a teaching that I heard growing up that has unfortunately influenced my thinking and gives the impression that once I followed Jesus I was on the His perfect path for me.  If I messed up I was no longer on the ideal path God had designed for me and therefore I had eternally messed up the divine plan God had for me. Certain Scriptures were used as evidence for this theory and were used to guilt trip me and others into staying on this straight and narrow path.  It was strongly preached that I needed to find out God’s will for my life and stick with it, because if I messed up I would never regain the true intended path God had for me.

Finding out God’s will became the ultimate quest of my Christian journey.  God had a task, a purpose for me to find and do, so that I could be in His perfect will.  And for some reason this purpose was one I needed to find out on my own.  I had to seek and search and it became something I could never pin down, so I constantly felt like a failure—like I had eternally messed up my life to the point of no return.

Bad circumstances—sickness, financial struggles, depression, death—these became  signs that I was on the wrong path, because if I was on the right path I would be on God’s perfect route and would not experience any of these problems.  For years (and sometimes even now) I struggled when bad things happened because I felt that I had chosen to take the wrong path that led me of God’s perfect path.  I hadn’t prayed enough, consulted the Bible enough or had “heard” the council of the Holy Spirit wrong.  I knew that if I just regained the original path I was supposed to be on, then I would be happy.  I would be in God’s will and this would be evidenced by the good things happening in my life.

I’m now of the opinion that this line of thinking isn’t strictly true.  This teaching is much like Allan handing me that topo map and telling me that I needed to get from the ranch to that valley and tell me that I’m only allowed to go a certain route.  If I didn’t go the exact way Allan intended for us to go then I would eternally mess up his plan and it would be a complete failure.

Well I’m grateful to know that Allan didn’t care HOW we got to the valley, he was just happy we accomplished what he had sent us to do—Scout out the country to find a viable campsite and see if moose inhabited the valley.

More importantly I am grateful I have come out from under the bondage of that teaching that was truth mixed with lies.  I know there are lies in that teaching because there are places in the Bible (my map) that point to the fact that when we are Jesus followers bad things will still happen to us and there are many testimonies from Jesus Followers that show suffering will still happen even if we are following the route God intended for us.  As well, there are many Scriptures that point out in specific what God’s will is for us as Christians.  I don’t need to struggle to find His elusive will for me!  It’s right there on the map! It’s not elusive.  It’s not hidden.  It’s in plain sight, in plain words.

This is where our guide in the form of God’s Spirit comes in: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

As well, Jesus didn’t not say he came to give us an easy life if I followed Him.  In fact he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

Jesus also tells his followers, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. “ Mark 8:34 (MSG)

I don’t have to listen to people (or myself) who point to the suffering in my life as evidence that I took the wrong route.  Life happens. However, I do need to take stock of my motivations, and my agendas.  If I am truly trying to follow Christ and reading the map he’s given me, then the difficulties in life should make me wiser, stronger and definitely more reliant on Christ, not someone who is damned for taking a wrong turn—which is the lie.  God is a God of grace and mercy and it is often through the struggle and hard times that I learn much about myself, the people I am with and most importantly, about God, Himself.

Furthermore, if God is all-knowing and like it says in Psalm 139 He knows all the days of my life before I even lived one, do you think that He is taken off guard or surprised when I step out into a “different” route?  If God is truly God, he is BIG!  He is far bigger than my small finite mind can comprehend.  Why then do people limit Him in this narrow-viewed idea that there is only one perfect path I can take through life and if I step off of it and forge a different route I am cursed or condemned for the rest of my life to pay for the wrong turn I took?

Maybe it’s not the route I take through life that matters so much as how I handle what comes along that route.  Again, this is not saying the end justifies the means, this is just saying that the journey is where I grow.  Maybe it’s not about which path is better or easier but more about learning to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus with an eternal perspective.

Yep I’ve come to the conclusion that my life will probably be filled with wrong turns and detours that may take me through mucky swampland or tight tangled forests.  Alongside that, hopefully my life will also contain reviving and restful times alongside quiet streams of water in the shade or in pleasant, grassy meadows. Most of all, I am determined to always strive forward to attain those ridges that afford a glimpse of the grandest peak ahead.

God, my shepherd{Read:Guide}! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.   Psalm 23 (The Message)

And it goes without saying:  I’ve found that the easy way sure makes for a boring story!

View from our High Mountain Valley with Atlin Lake in the distance

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One Response to On a Mission Part Three: With the Journey Comes a Lesson

  1. Pingback: Snow Paths | lessonslearnedinthebush

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