Jeremiah 6 v 16 talks about standing at the crossroads looking for the ancient paths.
It instructs us to look for the good way and to walk in it; that if we do, we find rest for our souls.
What are ancient paths? Are they literal or metaphorical?
My husband and I love to go out walking.
We have walked in the Welsh hills, we have climbed mountains in Tenerife, we have hiked along rocky coastal paths, and walked through empty fields that seem to lead nowhere.
But, no matter where we are, if we look hard enough we find signs of ancient tracks that others have trod; the flattening of ground, worn grass, a faint but just recognisable path winding up the mountain.
It’s good to follow in the path of others. The trailblazers.
It makes sense not to veer into dangerous territory and fall off a cliff, either literally or metaphorically, but let’s remember – each path leads somewhere different.
We always like to know where we are headed don’t we?
We like to know how and when we are going to get there; what we will achieve along the way, and what the finished article/destination will look like.
But, if that’s how we live our lives, we risk the potential of missing out, for there is so much to learn along the way.
If the result is the only important outcome and only “success” (whatever that is) will do, then we are setting ourselves up for a fall before we even start, because most things have a habit of not working out the way we imagine they will.
The Chinese have a proverb that says, “The journey is the reward”.
As me and my husband walk, we have the choice of which path to take: shall we go left or right here? Up the hill or down the valley? The long circuitous route or the one that gets us back the quickest?
We may have set out that morning with the intention of walking a particular route, or covering a certain distance, but along the way were inspired to have a different adventure; sparked by something we saw or someone we met.
We didn’t care if that particular walk wasn’t completed today; there’s always tomorrow.
The joy of our new discovery made today thrilling and exciting, spontaneous and unexpected.
Who would want to miss out on that?
In life we can often have tunnel vision when it comes to the things we do.
We like to have our whole lives mapped out as we strive for the goal we set for ourselves, believing that when (and if) we achieve it, all will be well.
We can be so focused, worrying and obsessing about whether it will turn out as planned, that we are incapable of really living today.
What if God asked something of us, today, that didn’t fit in with our plan?
When we moved to Tenerife some people said to us, ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing. No, actually that’s not true; I WOULDN’T do what you’re doing!’
We were setting our stall out, there and then, by stepping off the map of our lives to go on an adventure with God with only a compass to guide us.
I read this quote today by author John Eldredge,
“Thinking of life as a journey reminds me to stop trying to set up camp and call it home. It allows me to see life as a process, with completion somewhere down the road. Thus, I am freed from feeling like a failure when things are not finished, and hopeful that they will be as my journey comes to its end. I want adventure, and this reminds me I am living in it. Life is not a problem to be solved; it is an adventure to be lived.”
I was talking with a new friend the other day. In the same way we chose to lay down the map of our lives when we went to Tenerife, she and her family did the same to go to a different destination.
They, too, shed their belongings and travelled light; learning that we don’t require anywhere near what we think we need in order to enjoy life.
There are times, it’s true, when both of us have (with hindsight) missed a particular something we gave away.
But, as we’ve just read, these only serve as a reminder that we are living an adventure.
And it’s only stuff, anyway…
There are things that were never finished in Tenerife and it would be easy to say we failed in some sense.
There will, undoubtedly, be things now that we are back, that might never be completed (by us, anyway).
But we have not failed, because we have learned so much along the way – and hopefully had some fun.
We are allowed to have fun. God says it’s okay!
I’m not advocating starting things with no intention of finishing them; simply that life can change.
We can change.
Things that were once so important to us might not continue to be a priority. We constantly grow, change and evolve so doesn’t it stand to reason that our life will do the same?
So, how can we make sure we live life not as a ‘problem to be solved’ but as an ‘adventure to be lived’?
All I can do is share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Firstly, hold life with very light hands.
If we are followers of Jesus, we have already given our lives away.
As Matthew 16 v 25 reminds us, “Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am’.” (The Message)
We cannot ‘give our life to Jesus’ and then continue to hold it in a vice-like grip. That just won’t work. It cannot – it’s impossible!
As this verse tells us there cannot be two drivers: what happens if they each want to go in a different direction?
So, decide: whose life is it?
No matter how tightly we hold onto our lives, we cannot control everything around us.
People die, there could be a financial crash, we might lose our job or our business, we (or someone close to us) might get ill.
The more we try to control situations the more fearful we become; less adaptable, unable to deal with change and spontaneity.
Life becomes very safe, boring, small, and predictable. And, by extension, we are terrified to venture out into the wide open spaces God puts before us because they seem so threatening to us.
Secondly, faith isn’t certainty.
If God asks something of us do we keep putting it off until ‘every I is dotted and every T is crossed’?
Do we make sure we have contingency plans in place just in case things don’t work out?
Or do we trust the character of the one who has called us?
If He says He is our provision do we believe Him?
If He says He goes before us to prepare a way do we believe Him?
When He says He is with us do we believe that He is?
Thirdly, God’s ways are not our ways.
Many times throughout my life I have assumed certain things based on probability; expected that life will turn out this way or that.
Sometimes there have been complete curve balls; at times not always pleasant but with hindsight I see that if things had gone ‘my way’ I would have missed out on an array of life’s lessons.
Some of the curve balls have been fantastic and things worked out way better than I could have ever achieved myself. We don’t see the bigger picture and we don’t always know what’s best for us.
Fourthly, seek out and surround yourself with people who are brave.
The kind of people who have dared to step off the map to find the adventure in life.
Those who aren’t hemmed in by the culture of this generation, or by religion, ego, money, or fear.
Those who live TODAY and adventure with God in the small and big things of life.
Those who live lives of faith; if God asks something of them, their answer is, “Yes!”
Don’t compare yourself to and feel threatened by these people.
Comparison and fear causes mistrust; an ‘us and them’ mentality which stops us all from learning from each other.
Fifthly, try to live in the present.
Enjoy the journey while aiming for the destination.
Anxiety is often caused by two things: living in the past and projecting to the future.
Philippians 3 v 13 encourages us not to live in the past; either through nostalgia (always remembering ‘the good ol’ days) or in shame and regret for things we’ve done.
Similarly, we are reminded in Matthew 6 v 34, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (The Message)
So much of our anxiety is about tomorrow (or somewhere else in the future).
When we were in Tenerife there were two occasions when we nearly ran out of money.
We were, understandably, very concerned but we felt God say, “Are you okay today?” We were, and unsurprisingly we never ran out of money.
There’s the old saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
I want to continue to live life as a wanderer and an adventurer – not getting stuck, lost or bored along the way.
It is my intention to be expectant and excited, open to learning new things, ready to fold away my map, pack away my tent, and live with the hope that He who started a good work in me, will complete it.
Do you want to join me?