Narrated in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are people of faith on the move. Repeatedly, we hear the promise of God, often followed by a pilgrimage that may call for the long way around. Moving from Point A to Point B is not as easy as it sounds.
We say, “God’s ways are not our ways,” but detours are disorienting. We have our apps, maps and an estimated time of arrival. This ensures we can confidently say, “I know where I’m going.”
But what do we do when walking with God is not a walk in the park? “God hides (God’s) work, in the spiritual order as in the natural order, under an unnoticeable sequence of events,” Francois Fenelon, a French Roman Catholic archbishop, believed.
If this is true, then God hides the divine hand at work. Consequently, we may never make all the connections to how we finally arrived at our purpose.
Unfortunately, we often read the Bible like a travel brochure. However, Jesus followers are not tourists but “pilgrims passing through.”
“Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ,” Eugene Peterson wrote in “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.”
The mix-up has caused the North American church to be treated as a tourist attraction, a place we visit on Christmas and Easter. And this is the only room we make for Jesus: his manger and tomb.
We dress up for his birthday party and throw confetti on the nativity scene. On Easter Sunday, we visit his grave and take pictures. Dressed in our best, we smile and say, “Cheese!”
This makes me wonder if Jesus’ life between the cradle and the grave is seen as a detour. Do we want to avoid the seeming roundabout route and skip to the good part— resurrection, victory, success?
More so, when we don’t soar to a place of prominence but must follow Jesus like everyone else, do we secretly ask ourselves, “What did I sign up for?” In those moments, Lauren Brewer Bass reminds us, “Calling is a sacred journey taken on foot.”
Our destiny comes closer to us when we put one foot in front of the other. Faith requires walking shoes.
And it is not just about arriving but being formed along the way. When the Apostle Paul talks to the Galatian believers about spiritual formation (and it is the only time the phrase “formed in you” appears in the Bible), it literally means “until a mind and life in complete harmony with the mind and life of Christ will have been formed in you” (Galatians 4:19-20).
The goal is to be fashioned like Christ to be found in Christ. Spiritual formation takes time—even though we want to take our dreams and run with them.
Feeling lost or uncertain about where you are headed is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Even Jesus’ disciples asked for directions.
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way” (John 14.5)? Jesus says to Thomas and us, “The Way is standing right in front of you.”
If the detour is divine, then God is not choosing this direction because it is a more scenic route. The way that God takes us will reveal who we are.
So, take my words as a sign. You haven’t lost your way. You’re just going farther than the eyes can see.