It is a common metaphor for our life and what we perceive to be its purpose—a journey. It seems fitting, because like a journey, our life has a start and a finish. There are landmarks and mileposts along the way. Breakdowns, detours, and crossroads.
Occasionally when I’m driving, usually on some busy highway, I wonder, “Where are all these people going?” At any given moment I may be witnessing a glimpse of hundreds of journeys. It can seem as chaotic as watching an ant on an anthill.
From our perspective, our life may well seem like a journey. We are always our own frame of reference. There’s no getting around it; my life is all about me. The problem is, it’s a limited perspective and it’s not God’s perspective, though we can begin to assume it is. We know God loves and cares about us so he must care about “my journey.”
This perspective, though, quickly reduces God to a heavenly AAA. He’s there to give me directions and help me out if something goes wrong on my journey. Spiritual roadside assistance. Prayer becomes like the OnStar System in some vehicles. Push the button, get some directions, carry on.
This is a very western, a very American, way of viewing things. (My) life, (my) liberty and pursuit of (my) happiness. It is not the only way, nor is it the best way, of viewing our lives. We like this way because it reinforces our perspective that we are the center of our universe. But it’s not true. We are not the center of the universe.
Instead of a journey, consider your life as a mission. Not some individualized mission or calling as a way to spiritualize your journey. Think of yourself as one of the 160,000 Allied soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944. Yes, there were 160,000 journeys and a good number of them ended that day, but arguably, there was only one mission: establish a beachhead in France to allow onward movement onto the continent to culminate in the destruction of the Third Reich.
Certainly there were sub-tasks within that overarching mission. The Rangers at Point Du Hoc had a different task than the paratroopers at Sainte-Mère-Église or the pilots of the landing craft. But all worked toward that one mission: establish a beachhead, defeat Hitler. 160,000 stories brought together for one purpose.
Soldiers endure hardship. Rain, cold, heat, hunger, and fatigue. They learn to sleep, eat, and fight anywhere. Sometimes they are given seemingly impossible tasks. Some tasks do turn out to be impossible. In order for a mission to succeed, a commander must find the balance between caring for his troops and being willing to place them in harm’s way.
God cares for us, but he is also willing to place us in harm’s way. God cares for us, but he is willing to accept the loss of some in order for the mission to succeed. That’s not a view we readily embrace as Americans. We don’t uphold self-sacrifice to a greater cause much anymore. But our mission requires it.
We can hardly open the Scriptures without being confronted by individuals working to fulfill their mission. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Paul and Silas. Jesus of Nazareth. May we be inspired by their example to set aside our journey for God’s mission.