Have you ever wondered where all our inner turmoil gets us?
As I look back over my journal entries from last year I am struck by how much complaining and critiquing they contain. Nothing major or incisive about the world – just a general negative picture of daily life. I didn’t get enough sleep. I didn’t want to work. I felt hemmed in. For the most part I saw life as something to get through to reach the a few times of rest. I wanted it to be different, but I struggled to see how.
Trying to honestly assess my life, I fell into a spiral of complaining. It started because I was frustrated by an underlying and nagging discontent. If I pinpointed where and what was holding me back from the job I wanted, from writing, from building friendships, I could get rid of it and go on with life. Yet, my reflections had the opposite outcome. Instead of making me more free, these complaints became the reality of my life. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I needed an external prophet to point to the way out of this turmoil. Words of God from the prophet Jeremiah speak of such a new path.
- Stand by the roads and look
I’ve got to get out and look, not inside myself, but to the ways out there. Some are roads I’ve walked on; others have been trod by friends, family, other pilgrims. The point is I’ve got to go out.
- Ask for the ancient paths, where the way is good
I need to ask, not strike out on my own to try to fix, to create a story that will work. Instead, the Lord is calling his people to ask him for these roads. He will guide as he did Abraham, Ruth, Nehemiah, and many others.
- Walk in it and find rest for your souls.
Finally, I need to walk along these paths. Not sit and fret about why I can’t, or give excuses. It’s time to go, and in the going with God, find the rest that I can’t create myself.
I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve struggled to create the road and then do the walking – all on my own. I also haven’t taken the time to stand and look. What I thought was a year of honest looking, wasn’t. At least it wasn’t the right kind of looking. Instead of getting out and seeing where God had lain the roads for me, I stayed inside and dreamt about the comfort of remaining within. Safe. Secure. I tried to put together the perfect story and plan for life. Again, by myself. And along the way I stopped looking at the roads and became comfortable in the ditch.
Overall, last year wasn’t terrible. There were quite a few highlights – conversations with friends, travels to authors’ homes, new ministry opportunities. As I consider what was different about the life-giving times, I realize that in those moments I was looking outside of myself, standing by the roads and taking time to consider the ancient paths.
And, yes, every once in awhile, actually walking.
It’s time to change to use these moments as my models, instead of the endless complaining. Instead of focusing on what’s not working and what I don’t like, it’s time to get out. To look at the roads, to pray to see those ancient paths, and to walk in the good ways more often. I have it on good authority that Someone will be with me as I do so.