Your spiritual life is a process, not a destination.

Image from rawpixel.com

Much to my chagrin, quantum physicists have not yet achieved physical teleportation. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s being seriously researched or tested except by a handful of incredibly hopeful and enthusiastic teenagers in someone’s garage laboratory. If you’re one of those folks—please send me your research or a kickstarter link. I have money and there’s an entire planet filled with human beings who are desperate to be somewhere without having to submit to the process of getting there. I know because I used to be one of them and some days, I still am.

We are all headed somewhere at any given time—some of us know our destination and some of us don’t. Some of us have a good sense of direction and a love for adventure and some of us don’t. No matter which category we fall into, everyone setting out on a path must start somewhere; but if we’re honest, it’s hard. It’s hard to be a beginner because no one wants to feel like a noob. Noobs know nothing (or very little) and question everything. Let’s talk through it in terms of a cross-country road trip.

Here are some noob questions:
Should I drive solo or take a friend?
What is the best route?
What do I pack?
How long will this take?
What roads should I avoid?
Is there any weather coming up on the way?
What are some great vistas I need to take in?
What hotels are good—are they cheap?
Where are the gas stations?
How do I stay awake on long stretches?
What snacks can I eat while driving?
What do I do if I run out of gas?
What if I’m driving late at night with my windows rolled down and I accidentally swallow a bug after it hits the back of my throat at a speed of 72 mph because I was singing to stay awake?

If we’re honest, most of us would rather just bypass the noob stage, skip the road trip, and teleport directly to our destination. It’s like in Mario Brothers when you locate the warp pipe in World 1.2 that takes you straight to World 8—anyone? Just me? Whatever, some of you know exactly what I’m talking about and you know it. Don’t lie.

Anyway, the problem with that approach is that you miss out on so much. You don’t get to see the sights, feel the wind in your hair, know what it feels like to peel your legs away from the leather seats, blast the music, stay in questionable motels, feel the frustration of a wrong turn, or cry on the side of the road because you ran out of gas and broke down—in the dark. Some of these things you’d prefer to skip altogether, but the fact is that at some point in your life you’re going to encounter someone who is going to take that same road trip. If you skip it, you will be of no help.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s what I believe—all we really need to know before setting out on a journey is the destination. Trust me when I say that as long as you know where you’re headed, you’ll get there as long as you get in the car. There will always be people you meet along the journey who have been where you are and can point you in the right direction.

Here’s what I know—in this life, the ultimate destination—the one that opens to the door to the path of human flourishing—is Jesus. That’s where I’m headed and I know many of you headed that way too. So really, all we need to do is get in the car—and the car is right where you are. Just like on a road trip, our faith journey will be filled with people who have been where we are and will point us in the right direction.

Image from rawpixel.com

It’s important to note that Jesus is not someone we arrive at. He is someone we want reflect in the world, model our life after, and have as a guide. Truly one of the best things about pursuing Jesus is that as we embark on the journey of allowing God to transform us from the inside out—to become more and more like Jesus—he is there with us. It’s like taking the best road trip with your best friend to the best place for the rest of your life. Like any road trip there are detours, closed roads, missed exits, flat tires, and sometimes you even swallow a bug. That’s life.

Over the past five months, I’ve had several friends reach out and ask me how I’m doing. To be honest, it depended on the day. Some days were great and others were awful. Aside from the global pandemic and increase in awareness of systemic racism in our country, I’ve received some difficult blows personally: specific disappointments, general anxiety, ongoing frustration, and decision fatigue. In those times, I knew Jesus was with me. How did I know?

Mom taught me.
Chris showed me.
Kelsey reminded me.
Adele reminded me.
Audrey reminded me.
David preached on it.
People wrote about it.
I journaled through it.
Then one day, I just knew it was true.

In a blog post earlier this year, I shared about a tire blowout (figuratively speaking). I shared how I showed up, screwed up, felt ashamed, remembered the truth, and had my hair done. I simply wrote about the details of my day and how I actively remembered God was with me. I was telling you about my day with the hope that maybe you might be encouraged—but then something beautiful happened.

For several days after, I had an overwhelming number of friends and family reach out to me. Some of them nodded and cried with me over the phone—those were sweet moments. They reminded me that we all break down on the side of the road occasionally, but that God sees us fall and helps us up. They reminded me again of God’s grace and compassion.

Some of them prayed with and for me, asking for Jesus’s strength to emerge from my weaknesses. They had experienced flat tires on their journey and reminded me that sometimes we can’t, but Jesus can. Those were powerful moments which anchored the truth from scripture in my heart. They reminded me again of God’s mercy and grace.

Some of them wondered how on earth I was writing about a vulnerable moment in my life instead of lying on the floor in a puddle of tears. I distinctly remember those calls and texts. That’s when I realized something. In that moment—for that person—I was the teacher. They taught me that there’s always someone watching and wondering how you do it. Those are the moments we get to tell them the good news.

Because of all of those Jesus followers who did those things for me, I am now doing that for someone else.

That’s how it goes. It’s just a process.

My friend Brad taught me that following after Jesus truly is the path of human flourishing and I know it’s true based on the lives of the people I admire. Their prayer lives inspire me. Their generosity inspires me. Their knowledge and understanding of Scripture inspires me. Their ability to forgive inspires me. Their willingness to see people in their path and love them as Jesus would—right where they are—inspires me. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if any of them had skipped the road trip.

My friends who have been following Jesus for a long time, and even some who have been following him for less time, have been lovingly sprinkled along my lifelong road trip with and for Jesus. Their companionship, reminders, encouragement, admonishment, and wisdom have guided me for many years now. They aren’t perfect, but I know I can trust them because like me, their destination is Jesus.

Teleportation is overrated and it’s not even an option. So just remember the next time the journey gets rough and you swallow a bug, it’s okay. Someone will come along who will teach you that you just need to gargle with Gatorade to get the taste out, get back in the car, turn up the music, and drive.

Beautiful scenics along Route 46 in California. State Route 46. Old Mammoth Road. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.com

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