Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Journey and the Destination

To so many people life is about destinations—“If I can just get this job…this house…this amount of money in savings…this position…this status…then I will enjoy life.”

While goals are certainly important we can very easily fall into the idolatry of the destination. The destination then becomes the fantasy we live for, that we sacrifice for, that we put life on hold for only to find when the destination is reached, when the goal is achieved, it doesn’t bring us the happiness or fulfillment that we had imagined. And so the joy of the goal accomplished, the destination met is tinged with an anxious searching for the next destination. I suspect this is due to our tendency to become so fixated on the idol of the destination that we fail to experience the joy of the journey. Yet it is the very joy of the journey that actually gives us the capacity and substance of heart to savor the destination when it is finally met.

If we can begin to appreciate the journey with all of its meandering, surprises, and trials, then the destination will become just one of many moments of joy and wonder along the way and we will be truly free to enjoy it when we get there because our souls have become enlarged in each step of the journey.

I think this is why I love hiking in the mountains. Hiking up a mountain is fun but the joy is as much in the journey as in conquering the mountain-top. It’s the walking through piney forests, breathing in the cool dry air, seeing a deer running across your path, putting your feet in a cold mountain stream at the end of a hard day of hiking, the setting up and breaking down of the camp, the colors and the smells of nature which enrich and refresh the inside. The mountain-top, while breath-taking and beautiful, is simply the culmination of that journey. How sad and insensitive it would be to be so focused on getting to the peak that you could miss the beauty along the way.

Yet how often do we find ourselves doing this in life—Focused and determined, reaching and grasping for our dreams, oblivious to the in-breaking of the divine all around us each step of the way?

Too often sincere men and women of faith live as if heaven were just some mere destination we go when this business of life is over. Yet the words of Jesus tell us a different thing--“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”

You would think by the way folks talk about God these days that our prayer should really be “please God let me in to heaven when I die” as if that were the point. Yet even Jesus did not seem nearly so concerned with the ultimate destination as in our experiencing a bit of heaven in the here and now, that the very journey of our lives would be infused with the richness of his presence, and the touch of his kingdom right here, right now. As for that final destination, it will certainly be breath-taking and wonderful when it comes in full, yet we should not meet it as those who are completely surprised nor as those who have only read the brochure, but as those who have experienced the nearness of God, holy wonder in the mundane, and beauty all around concealed only to those too busy or too distracted to notice. The end of this journey will be wholly incomprehensible yet strangely and intimately familiar for those who have lived not simply for the destination or tethered to the past but savoring every beauty and trial all along the way.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Enjoying His Kingdom, here and now, is such a wonderful way to enjoy this journey we call life.

Matt said...

Thanks for sharing. This was a timely word for me. I have just started "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. I have lived most of my christian walk waiting for something to happen...or ultimately to "get in" to heaven. The Kingom is here, now! Thanks for the reminder.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, so wise, and so true. May we see the journey and the process as absolutely necessary and meaningful as the destination and the product....
Tim A.