People ask me where I’m going. Right now, I’m just focused on how I’ll get there.
Last year, I left my job at Jubilee Project, packed everything I owned into a rental car and set out on a journey. When my friends and family asked me where I was going next, I didn’t know exactly what to say. Perhaps it was because there wasn’t a simple answer. Perhaps it was because I was afraid they’d think I was crazy. Perhaps I had too much pride to admit that I had the faintest idea of what would come. Yet, as I reflect back on that decision over 6 months ago, I begin to understand that this overwhelming sense of uncertainty and doubt is only part of a perfect plan of God, whose fingerprints are all over the process.
So where was I going, and did I get to my destination yet? It’s hard to say. But I suppose that wasn’t really the question that mattered all along.
Sure, the questions make a lot of sense to me. It’s the same ones I asked myself pretty much my whole life. What was I going to do with my life? What kind of impact would I make? I believed that once I arrived at my destination, I would find meaning and fulfillment. If only I had my dream job. If only I was getting paid a certain amount of money. If only I received the recognition and fame I deserved. If only I had power or influence to make a big enough difference. Then I will be happy. I was looking for the perfect destination that would satisfy all the things I was hungry for.
Put it this way: I cared more about where I was going, than the process it took to get there. That’s how we’ve been conditioned to think. After all, people seldom post Facebook photos of their plane ride to Hawaii. Their resume’s don’t detail the failures they faced leading up to getting their dream job. No one waits in line to see the discarded drafts of the Mona Lisa. Similarly, I had little patience for the journey it took to get to the platform of significance I was yearning for. I just wanted to get there. Who’s got the time for that other stuff?
Still, I’ve been on this journey long enough to know that simply getting to the next destination isn’t really enough. There’s a much deeper question underneath it all.
The week Jan and I left Los Angeles on this journey, we chanced upon a Church service that would become a divine lesson, a taste of what I was really looking for. The pastor talked about God’s relationship with Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham when he was 75 years old, promising to give him a child and make him the father of nations (Gen 13:16). After God tells him to ‘go,’ Abraham sets out on a journey of faith, going to places he knew not of. His path takes him through many ups and downs, with no clear signs that this promise would come to fruition. 25 years later, Abraham finally becomes father to Isaac. He was 100 years old, and God finally fulfills his promise that would ultimately change nations. But the most important point of the story is the type of person Abraham becomes through the 25 year process. In the end, it’s about the relationship between Abraham and God that unfolds during the 25 year process. It’s about the faith that develops in him. It’s about the intimate relationship he develops with God. James 2:23 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.”
I believe the destination does matter. And indeed there are so many blessings to testify about: Jan and I settled down in San Francisco, where we felt the Lord calling us to serve the local church and the local community. We found a home in the beautiful sunset district. We were adopted into a likeminded and life-giving community. We got married, and are in the midst of planning our ceremony. And yes, we were blessed with an amazing job. More on all this in posts to come.
Yet, as I reflect on this journey, I have come to realize that where we have arrived is hardly the most important thing. What I felt God showing me is that He cares more about is the process it takes to get there. What good is getting my dream job when my soul is sick? What good is finding a wife when I am incapable of putting her life before mine? What’s the point in doing good in the world, when I lack the ability to truly love others? As I reflect on the last several months, I have experienced God leading me to look within my heart and address a more important question. Not the question, what am I doing next, but rather who am I becoming?
For so many years, I’ve spent so much of my energy and time defining who I was by the things I accomplished or the labels I attached myself to. But what I have found each time I did that was disappointment. Not necessarily because those destinations were lacking in some way. Rather, each of these landing points served to show me how shaky the foundation of my identity had been. With each role I held, I sought to find meaning through external circumstances, through the acclaim of others and the visible signs that told me I was valuable. In doing so, I have established my identity and worth in what I did, what other people thought of me, how many views a video received, what my job title was, how many influential people I knew. I was hoping some how to feel validated by them. It turns out, none of these things can really give you all that you’re looking for.
This time, the focus has shifted to something different. As I continue on this journey the most radical change has been coming in ways I can hardly see, or even describe. With each step I take into the unknown, I feel God bringing up issues in my heart that have long gone unresolved – the hurts, the insecurities, the pride, the fear of man, the lack of faith. Some of these issues have been there for a long time. And until I’m willing to face them head on rather than sweep them under the rug, they don’t cease to go away. Not this time. Not without the faith to address them, and the steps of repentance that must follow. And what He has shown me is that when we take steps to live out obedience and live radically, we walk down a path that takes us into the freedom we were destined to live in.
Still, the process is hard. There isn’t a time I have felt more weak. I have felt vulnerable, and brutally exposed. And while my tendency in the past has been to try to prove how strong I am, something feels different this time. I am coming to accept that I am weak, and that I can’t do this by myself. Left to my own devices, I am helpless and lost. And there in that state of weakness, I start to see that I can’t do this thing without God.
There’s something that happens in the spiritual realm when you make the decision to submit your life under the authority of Christ. He’ll take it and start stripping off the parts that prove harmful to our being. Like a gardener cutting off the vines that don’t bear fruit, God has been pruning my heart. It’s a painful process. And it’s one I find myself fighting each day. But slowly, I see that God is calling us to trust in Him. To allow the workings of God to take shape in the places of my life that matter the most. To give him the permission to break us down so that we can grow into the fullness of life that God has for us!
And then, the things that once mattered so much before start to have a different meaning. It’s no longer about finding a job that meets my needs, but rather finding a space where I can grow in my capacity of faith. It’s not about finding community to hang out with, but about joining a family to run this race with. It’s not about finding validation in a dream job, but entering into the work He’s already started to make disciples of all nations. It’s not about getting somewhere, but about the process of becoming the person he has called us to be. And it’s not about what we do, but about whose we are that matters the most.
In the end, it’s the process that matters most because there is where we find what we have been looking for.
So where am I going, and did I get to my destination yet? It’s hard to say. And there’s so much to update you. But I suppose that wasn’t really the question that mattered all along. Instead, here’s the real update: It’s been an amazing journey of faith. I believe He’s leading us the same way He led Abraham, taking us to some place new. And through it, I sense Him focusing my heart on developing my relationship with Him. Finding Him in the secret place. Listening to His voice. And growing in my intimacy with Him. Though we may not see it now, there’s something going on deep inside. The destination may not be in sight just yet, but the path to get there has been life changing. This time, I’ve learned to treasure the moments along the way, and I’m collecting the airplane selfies (or wefies) to remind myself of it.