Friday, November 7, 2014

Staying in Another Universe

The notion of travel as a metaphor for the Christian life has been around long before John Bunyan put pen to paper. Really, the commissioning of Abraham to leave Ur and journey, not knowing where, when, or how, is the template for much of our faith walk. 

We go. We go because we're called, and we trust that, somewhere along the way, we will receive the needed direction at the time we need it. God will, indeed, be a lamp for our feet. He will light the path step by step, though often not, to our chagrin, any farther than one step at a time.

That's why, when I think about Thanksgiving and faith in November, I think about the places we've been privileged to travel as a family. We've prioritized those experiences with our kids over many of the things we could have had. In the process, we've learned a bit about this thing called faith. I'm grateful, for the experiences and for the lessons. So during Thanksgiving season, let's share some of our experiences of traveling, learning, and faith. I would love for you to share some of yours.

I'm starting in Spain.

Originally, plans had the five of us hopping a train from Barcelona to Geneva for a few days in Switzerland before Italy. Originally, until the carefully-mustached gentleman at the ticket counter in Paris looked up from his ever-clicking computer and said, “non.”

What do you mean, “Non”? We have Eurail passes. Good anywhere, anytime, right? That's what the posters say. The posters neglect to mention that sometimes, even with passes, making reservations several days in advance is still not enough to get you on a popular train. Attempting practically every city between the two as a way stop availed us nothing; the answer was still a firm, “Non.” No reservations possible. All trains full. What to do?

Quite a nice unexpected little town square, non?
Cancel inn reservations, point to a dot on the map halfway between Spain and Italy, and say, “There. We're going there for two days instead.” We found a hotel that promised on the website it decorated its rooms and floors “like the five continents, so your stay will be in another universe.” Their d├ęcor was creative, if their geography woeful, and the price was definitely right. It wasn't what we had planned. But, if we were willing to embrace it, it might be just what we needed.

How many times have I made plans, my plans, in a headlong rush to do what I wanted, go where I would, and see what I wanted to see? Plans, tacitly asking God to rubber stamp them, but not considering that he might want a say in them? How often has God been forced to be the gentleman at the ticket counter saying, “non,” when he would much rather be the counselor and friend saying, “Yes—this is the adventure I want you to go on. Yes. Go here”?

Insisting on my itinerary, I put God in the role of restrainer when He wants to be an empowerer.  [tweet this].Then I complain that He spoils the fun.

Paul had great plans, and they seemed sensible. Yet God said no. The Holy Spirit prevented him from traveling to Asia (Acts 16) and instead sent him to Macedonia. As a result, the church at Philippi came to be. Simply, when God said, “non,” Paul let Him point to a dot on the map and say, “There. Go there instead.” He freely released his agenda and opened his heart and hands to God as the light for his feet.

In fact, the pretty little hotel in the quiet sea town of Toulon was just what we needed. After the crazed rush and crowds of Paris and Barcelona, we didn't know how much we needed two days with nothing to do but swim and wander and eat pizza. God knew. He always does.

It's my prayer, though, that more and more I will put Him in the place of saying, “Yes—that's what I want for you; go for it!” than, “No. Wrong turn. Detour.” It's all in not holding my agenda too tightly. It's all part of asking Him to create the itinerary in the first place. Where is He taking you?

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