In April, I was in Atlanta attending a conference. My hotel was downtown so I just took the train from the airport and then schlepped my way to the hotel with my luggage. When I travel to larger cities, I love to use public transportation to get around. It makes me feel a part of things rather than an outsider.
I had some extra time on that first evening and I discovered that the Blue Like Jazz movie
was playing in a suburb of Atlanta. I really wanted to see the movie while it was in the theaters to support it and it wasn’t near my area at home. I discovered that if I took a few different modes of public transportation, I could get pretty close to the venue. So, off I went.
I walked to the subway and caught the first train. I took a quick look at the map and then took over from there. I rode the train a few stops up and then got off to transfer to another train. I took that one for a few stops and when I was confident that I was at the correct place, I got off to catch a bus. However, there weren’t any bus stations at that stop. I paid closer attention to all of the maps posted around and realized I went about three stops too far east. So, I crossed over and got on the westbound train and headed back. Feeling confident that I had arrived at the correct stop, I got off. No buses. This time I had gone one stop too far west. The signs were everywhere but I wasn’t trusting them. I was so focused on figuring it out myself, I was ignoring the guides right in front of me.
I finally found the bus station at the next stop. I got on the right bus, made it to the venue, enjoyed a tremendous movie and then repeated the journey home. This time – I trusted the signs, went with the flow and made the bus and train transfers without any problems.
I travel the first way often. Just ask the kids in my van on the youth mission trip this summer. We saw a lot of OKC that we weren’t suppose to see. I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing that I fail to pay attention to maps and signs and people around me that could guide me better. I have the most faith in my abilities – even when they have failed me many times.
I travel this way spiritually, too. I always wrestle with God over control of the journey. It isn’t like I’m headed toward a crazy destination or am trying to lose God so I can live my own life. My desire is God. I simply have a lot of faith in my own ability to get to Him – even when it has failed me many times.
And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
‘Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.’ – Romans 9:30-33 (the Message)
God is all around me, ready to guide me, posting signs everywhere. But I don’t see them because I’m absorbed in what I’m doing myself to get there. Maybe if I read a different devotional book. Maybe if I pray longer. Maybe if I fast. Maybe if I just try harder or will it harder or want it more. Maybe if I ….. It is always about what I could or should be doing rather than trusting God’s action in me. And it usually disappoints and it most certainly exhausts me.
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. – Romans 8:5-8 (the Message)
It is so tempting to become absorbed in our own abilities to get close to God, to try and find our own way to freedom. But it is a dead end and only leads to us becoming even more self-obsessed. I spend more time on trying to get to God and don’t even notice God right in front of me until something sends me sprawling. Then, I reach out with palms up and realize that this was the posture I should have had the entire time.
Instead of trying to figure out the entire journey ahead of time and what I need to do to make things happen, I’m going to try and follow the Way, keeping my palms upward as I move forward, trusting who God is and what God is doing.
Do you struggle to trust God? How has your life been blessed by trusting God rather than yourself? Leave a comment and join the discussion.