The center of God’s will is a complex place to find. And it often seems like once there, it moves around.
A child is running across a large living room, a smile growing on her face as she gets closer to a huge, soft beanbag. With laser focus she determines to launch herself through the air, plunging headlong into the beanbag. A giant POOF explodes into the “sound-o-sphere” as she hits the center of the bag, enveloped in the padding — the perfect place to land. And not wanting to get out, or maybe even unable, she falls asleep. Resting there for hours in this amazing, comfortable, soft, safe place.
That is how I used to see the center of God’s will. The older I get, a new image emerges.
A man is going on a long journey. He has packed a large, heavy backpack full of anything he could possibly think to bring for whatever scenario might happen. With passion and focus he begins his trek, determined to conquer whatever may come. As the walk continues, the heat of the sun causes discomfort. And the pack is heavy, after all. As he takes a short rest from the walk, the man decides to go through his pack and offload a few items that are great to have, but probably won’t be needed. These situational provisions are a long shot.
As the journey continues, the sun gets hotter and the trail takes a steep uphill turn. The air becomes arid and it feels as if even the water in his skin is evaporating. Breathing comes to be difficult and the walk has already been long. He grows tired.
Another opportunity to rest leads to more offloading. And again and again as the trail stretches longer until only the absolute essentials are left in the pack. And the trail continues. And the trail becomes steeper again until even the essentials must be reckoned with.
Then the man finds only one thing in his pack. And walk is hot and long and steep. And he has no water left. It was offloaded or consumed long ago. The only option is to drop the pack entirely. This will, without a doubt, lead to his death.
Finally, without even the pack itself, he comes to his end. Miles of trail yet to walk, the journey feels as if it is just begun. Resigning himself to the reality of this being the end, he lies down — ready to die — with nothing. He drifts off to sleep.
But when he wakes, he realizes he is not in the desert he remembers. He is in a meadow with a small stream running through it. He runs to the stream and nearly drinks it dry. Standing up and staring at the sun, it is not the hot, life-sucking orb he remembers. It somehow gives him hope and energy again. This is a good place — a safe place. This must be the destination.
But it is not.
A stark realization emerges. This is not the destination at all. The man is suddenly hit with a question. What if the journey is it? What if all that pain was all there is? Was it worth it? Was the journey worth walking?
A voice breaks the pristine silence. “Go back! Help others!”
“No way!” That was hard.
“Yes. Help others. Bring them here.”
With great trepidation, the man shuffles off to do what he was told. What he finds is a myriad of people in the same position he found himself in not so long ago. And he screams at them, “Come over here! I know where there is water.”
But they won’t listen.
He runs to them and gets in their face and yells again, “Come with me! I can help you find rest!”
But they won’t listen.
Finally, in desperation, he throws his hands up and gently says, “No matter where you go, I will walk with you so you are not alone. Even if it means we walk away from the water.”
“You know where there is water?” one asks.
“Yes. Would you like to see?”
“Oh, would I!”
And they walk together to the meadow. And all this took place because the man walked in the hot sun, throwing off all the things that hindered him. And he found that somehow the sun wasn’t so hot this time. And the trail didn’t feel quite so steep. And he almost had a spring in his step knowing what lies ahead.
Was the journey worth it? I guess we should ask the one he walked alongside.
May you be found squarely in the amazing journey of God’s will!