Perhaps it’s just a result of turning the corner on one of those milestone birthdays! Since I turned 60 last year it seems I’ve been spending more and more time reflecting on “the journey” that has been my life. Like most of you, my life has been filled with its share of ups and downs, highs and lows, adventures and misadventures, successes and failures, opportunities and road blocks, joys and sorrows…..all of which have created a quilt of memories, life lessons, and relationships.
I was privileged to be brought up in a Christian home. Though it didn’t take me long to realize that my parents were not perfect, I also became keenly aware at a young age that my parents were deeply committed to their faith despite their personal flaws. This part of my journey was safe and secure, unlike the experience of so many others whose childhood was anything but pleasant!
The first real challenge in my personal journey happened when I was 15. A mugging at the hands of drunk man more than twice my size resulted in injuries that forced me to drop out of high school. Therefore, when I turned 17 I took a GED so I could join the Air Force, hoping one day to get to college with the help of the GI Bill. My journey had taken a major, unexpected detour.
The years that followed flew by…..military service, an early discharge to go to college, meeting my future wife, and our big church wedding. Then came life as a newlyweds going to college; moving everything we owned to Texas in a 4’ x 6’ when I rejoined the Air Force to finish my commitment; the birth of our first son the day after my wife was severely burned when a deep fryer spilled burning hot cooking oil onto her hands, arms and stomach; working as part time youth pastor; the movers packing up our house while my wife was in the hospital giving birth to our second son 2 days before my discharge from the Air Force; our car blowing up on the way to our new home with our 18 month old son and his week old baby brother; living in a Motel 6 my parents were managing for 6 months; finally landing my first full time ministry job; the birth of our daughter; finishing my education at seminary; launching out to plant a new church in California. And that’s only the first 10 years after our wedding! I had no idea what the journey would hold in the future.
This year my wife and I celebrate our 40th anniversary. Along the way there have been countless diapers to change, classes to take, relationships to build, holidays to celebrate, bills to pay, funerals to attend, Christmas programs to organize, parent-teacher conferences, school plays, Little League teams to coach, Bible studies and sermons to prepare, Board meetings to lead, couples to counsel, trips to the hospital, disagreements in the home, apologies that had to be made, vacations to enjoy, and countless life obstacles to overcome. And unless I’m totally mistaken, your life isn’t all that different!
The reality is, life is a “journey”. The hills and valleys of our life experience deeply impact who we are. We all experience moments of joy and happiness, as well as moments of heartache and sorrow. The human experience is not lived in a vacuum. Our bodies are subject to limitations, illness, injury and death. Our minds can be amazing instruments enabling us to do incredible things, but they can also be cluttered with useless, incorrect or misleading information that will hinder our decision making process. Our emotions are subject to outside circumstances, often beyond our control, and can be manipulated for the good or bad by others around us. The sum total of our life experience will empower some and cripple others.
Fortunately, we do not have to walk through this journey alone! God has promised in His word to be a source of light and guidance as we seek to find our way. Obstacles can be overcome; circumstances can be endured; broken hearts can be healed; estranged relationships can be reunited. The life principles laid out in the Bible are not bound by time or situation. In essence they provide a road map that we need to navigate this journey through life. It starts with the basics like the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. But there’s much more to be found in the pages of scripture than just that! In Psalms 32:8 God says, “I will instruct you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye.” There are time tested guidelines for raising a family, setting priorities, dealing with adversity, developing a proper work ethic, enjoying physical intimacy, handling one’s finances, accepting our human frailties, handling conflict, accepting others, facing death, and much, much more.
In today’s world most of us would not think about traveling somewhere we’ve never been before without taking along a good map or a solid connection to GPS on our phones. Yet many of us try to walk through this journey of life without the guidance of the Author of Life or the instructions He’s left for us to follow. Who knows how much wasted time and unnecessary pain we’ve endured, or caused, simply because we chose not to follow the instructions. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.
None of us know what is around the corner or what the next chapter will hold in our journey. There may be joy and happiness beyond our current comprehension or sadness and sorrows we had no idea were coming. At times we may have a good idea of what to expect, but at other times the journey is very much a surprise. The only thing we know for sure is that the “unexpected”, both good and bad, will be a part of our life experience.
In Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I don’t have to face this journey alone. I believe God has promised to walk with us through it all……I just need to remember to follow His instructions and look for His presence and direction along the way!