Last night as I was cleaning off my computer, I ran across a file that brought back some memories, and it shook me up. As I erased it, I knew that I needed to deal with the feelings that it brought up, so I called my best friend. As she listened to me talk through past decisions and current conundrums, she spoke into a very important truth that I needed to remember.
So many times we goal-oriented people can get so caught up in destinations. “I just need to get to my next job.” “I just need to get married.” “I just need to step into my calling.” “I just need my character to be fully formed in this way.” One thing that we forget is that often the “destination” is not the most important part; the journey is. It’s in the journey that we fall down, get back up, find grace, learn, and grow.
I think it’s people like me that keep God from showing much about the future. I used to desire that God would give me billboards about what direction He wants me to go in or where I will someday end up. However, I have come to realize that I don’t handle those billboards well. In those few select times that God has given me that knowledge, I respond in one of two ways: I either become completely overwhelmed and paralyzed by my fear in the enormity of it all, or I put on blinders and I run as fast as I can toward that destination. And I miss out; I totally miss out on perhaps the most beautiful part: the journey.
And can I speak to my precious single girl friends? I totally understand the loneliness and the doubts and the questions and the fear that this will last forever. But can I give you a word of caution? Perhaps something to file away until the right guy comes along. One thing I also understand about girls is that so often we are dangerously focused on this goal: to get married. We want to meet the right guy and have it all go down fast, because we “know what we want” and “why waste time”. While every situation is different, I think the heart of the matter is this: it is a dangerous thing to consider marriage a “destination.” I think the focus should not be getting married as quickly as possible, but rather in growing the relationship. Of all the married people that I have talked to, the ones that are truly happy in their marriage are the ones who have learned to enjoy the journey together in every stage, phase, and season. They are the ones that don’t rush toward destinations, but realize that every experience they have along the way, expected or unexpected, has the potential to draw them closer to each other. They delight in the small things, and they relish in every opportunity that comes their way. That is definitely the kind of relationship that I want someday.
Our experiences have a powerful potential to either wound us or create strong character in us. Our experiences also have the potential of tainting our reality when not seen through the lens of truth. When I think about the things that I have experienced in my life, I realize that I have, just like everyone else, experienced a lot of pain. For many years, I harbored bitterness toward God for all that He let me go through. I determined that He could not possibly be good, because what good God would have let a child experience such terror for years and let her suffer with so much physical pain for the other half of her life? Time after time, I lost what was precious to me. I saw God as a harsh Being who only wanted me to suffer. I have thought many times in my life, “If God is so good, then why is it all pain and no joy? Where is the ‘He gives and takes away?’ because I only see the ‘He takes away’ portion. It’s not fair.”
Then I boarded a plane and moved to South America and God not only changed my life, but He changed the way I see. He saw my stubborn and bitter heart, and there is no other way to say it but that He broke me. For the first time that I can remember, I truly understood what it meant to feel loved by Him and by others, and to believe in that love even when I couldn’t feel it. I had lived in darkness for so long; my reality so distorted. For my whole life, I was always running from one destination to the next; one dream to the next, but I was never satisfied. I would reach a goal, but I was not happy because there were always a hundred more goals waiting for me to accomplish. So much striving, disappointment, and frustration…and my big regret for the first 25 years of my life is that I totally missed the journey.
I believe that each day holds treasures to be discovered and memories just waiting to be made. I still have goals and dreams, but I hold them loosely in my hand. If I must be stubborn for one thing, I will be stubborn for this: to know Christ in all His beauty and radiance. After all, it’s Him that I’m truly following.
Don’t miss the journey in your search to accomplish. Don’t miss the scenery along the way. Don’t miss the memories that could have been made. There is so much richness hidden in the precious moments that we so often pass by. Ask God to teach you how to let go of what is past and to trust Him for your tomorrow, so you can be free to experience all that today has to offer.