If you know me, you know I like to travel. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to go a great number of places with plenty more still on the list. The anticipation of travel, the excitement of seeing somewhere new, I love it all. But if you’re someone who also likes to travel then you know that it rarely goes fully according to plan. It’s not always a disaster. Sometimes it’s only a minor inconvenience like a small delay, but other times it is a full blown travel disaster to the point you’re not even sure when or if you will make it to your destination.
I’ve had a couple of the second kind and I can certainly tell you it’s about as fun as it sounds. I had grand plans for how I would arrive at my destination, crisp and chipper, ready for whatever came next. Maybe I would even be well rested and fed, already prepared to hit the ground running. I always had grand plans for how the day was going to go and then all at once it would start unraveling.
I pride myself on handling travel mishaps fairly well, but I can’t deny how stressful and upsetting it always is. I’m out of control, trying to get somewhere I desperately want to be and there is nothing in my power I can do to make it happen. And that’s usually when the person I’m trying to get to sends me the same message. Something along the lines of “It’s ok. You’ll get here when you get here. I’m working on it from my end.” At which point I always apologize profusely and try to explain to them how I wanted to arrive which they counter by informing me that they don’t care about all that. They just want me there.
It strikes me that Christian life is not dissimilar to such travel mishaps. We have our ways that we want to move through life and honor God. We want to do our absolute best and present ourselves to him unblemished and perfect, and while that’s a noble desire that’s just not how life works. Our efforts are ruined before we even really begin. We’re human, therefore imperfect. We’re traveling, therefore delayed. It’s a nonnegotiable fact of human existence.
But like the people waiting for me at my destination, sending little messages that they’re working on things from their end and just glad I’m coming, God is less after our efforts to get there and far more interested in the fact that we arrive there at all.
God doesn’t care if you arrive perfect and in control. He just wants you to arrive.
You are not made better in his eyes by how neatly you arrive. His heart is not after punctual, in control followers. He is not concerned with the effort in your arrival because it’s not your effort getting you there. I’m not suggesting that we have no responsibility in traveling through life. We can’t just show up at the ticket counter with no plans and hope something will happen. We have a responsibility to show up and act to the best of our ability. We have to get on the train and actually pick up the Christian life. But that’s the extent of our capability. We can no more purify ourselves in God’s eyes than we could get out and push a stopped train into motion. The doing is not ours.
Our responsibility is to get on the train and stay with it no matter what. Steadfastness. Faith. That’s our job. We’re asked to let go and travel on no matter the delays and mishaps. We’re asked to press on to the destination no matter the exhaustion and weariness we feel while in transit. And weary we will most certainly feel, but that weariness is not an indication of failure or somehow lacking commitment. Your weariness does not equal failure.
God is just as pleased to see you come wearily stumbling across the threshold of heaven as if you sauntered in with confidence and competence.
In some regards, the weary traveler crawling over the threshold is a far better indicator of a life well lived. Life, if done for God’s glory, will take a great deal out of you. Christian life at its very core is a very costly endeavor. It will be full of a thousand little hurts that mark the different path you’ve chosen from the world, and there will even be the big, gut wrenching heartbreaks that threaten to tear you apart. There will be the doubts, the second guessings, the failures, the shortcomings, and all manner of things that mark an exhausting but well worth it journey.
A traveler on a worthwhile will always arrive a little worse for wear, but far more complete because of it. You end up arriving with none of the things you thought would matter, but the bare essentials that you do. It’s a far better way to arrive in the long run. So yes, your life will be bumped and messed up along the way, but the mishaps are not a promise that you’re not getting there. You don’t need to expend the energy getting there perfectly, but rather but the effort into faith that you will get there period. The train is still moving. You’re on your way.
Let’s find some joy,