I read this excerpt today and found it fitting for parts of my journey and how I wound up where I am today. I would like to share it with you:
“The story is told of a man on an African safari deep in the jungle. The guide before him had a machete and was whacking away the tall weeds and thick underbrush. The traveler, wearied and hot, asked in frustration, “Where are we? Do you know where you are taking me? Where is the path?!” The seasoned guide stopped and looked back at the man and replied, “I am the path.”
We ask the same questions, don’t we? We ask God, “Where are you taking me? Where is the path?” And he, like the guide doesn’t tell us. Oh, he may give us a hint or two, but that’s all. If he did, would we understand? Would we comprehend our location? No, like the traveler, we are unacquainted with this jungle. So rather than give us an answer, Jesus gives us a far greater gift. He gives us himself. We often think freedom in the midst of a trial translates as having all the answers we need. Instead, God offers all the Jesus we will need to get through the trial” (Experiencing the Heart of Jesus by Max Lucado).
This adequately describes this whole trekking journey. Where am I going? What is the point of this? Come on, give me something to count on! And He responds with “I am yours to count on.” Or just as the story says, “I am the path.”
By nature, I am a goal oriented person. When I was on the swim team, I pinned my swim goals to the ceiling above my bed so I could see them every morning when I woke up and again when I went to sleep. When I reached a goal, I spent very little time (if any at all) celebrating them before setting new goal. I feel I am at my best when I have the big picture and tangible goals in front of me to chase down.
I want to know where this journey ends or if it just keeps going. I want to know if I will return to the United States or become an expat in another country. It would be much easier for me mentally and emotionally to know I have to be in a specific place at a specific time. I want to know the end result so I know how to focus my expectations. But I do not get to know the end. I have to continually refocus on the journey, not the destination.
So how do we connect the dots of the journey we are called to? As I look back over time since I left home, I can see how the seemingly unconnected pieces of this journey have prepared me in big and small ways to take the next step. I will do my best to lay out some of the implications as I see it:
o Deepening an already strong relationship with my dad by spending ten adventurous days together in a new destination.
o Spending all hours of the day in a minivan sightseeing for ten days has prepared me for long bus and plane rides between destinations.
o Meeting up with Jessica who is from my hometown and now an expat living in Reykjavik, Iceland. Talking with someone else who has taken a big step to leave the US encourages me to keep pressing forward.
o Meeting Milad and Holly Korkis who shared their love for Israel, Palestine and Syria with me, providing a new perspective. It prepared my outlook and heart even when I did not know I was going to spend time in Israel.
o Holly and Milad provided very cost effective accommodations for me.
o I learned to be okay with co-ed hostels in a safe country.
Luxembourg & Amsterdam, Holland
o I met up with Jeremy (and his lovely family), my roommate from home who blessed me like crazy by allowing me to stay with them and provide some transportation.
o Provided opportunity to rest up from constant travel and prepare for the next season of travel.
o Connected with dear friends, Sandra and Lisa for a special time of bonding and exploring with each one separately.
o Connected with other American backpackers traveling for extended periods of time as well, thus encouraging me to press forward.
o Challenged me further in a co-ed hostel (I was the only girl for a few days).
o Connected with other backpackers who were taking on the world encouraging me to press forward.
o Traveled off the beaten path and connected with Bridget, a female American living in the Middle East. I learned more insights from firsthand perspective. I believe this was preparation for Israel.
o Connected with a group of medical missionaries who were at the end of their intense time on the field. Always an encouragement by people who are adventurously loving others with their God-blessed talents to keep pressing forward.
o Visited friends who blessed me like crazy by allowing me to stay with them and showing me all over the country.
o Connected with Americans from Texas who invited me back to Israel to work with them.
o Met up with Mom and Sister to accomplish a long-awaited dream together, deepening our already strong relationship.
o My parents blessed me by covering accommodations and transportation.
o Helen, my Texas friend who invited me back, blessed me immensely by taking care of accommodations at Biblical Tamar Park in the Negev Desert.
o Invited to stay at Biblical Tamar Park after the Texas group left to help the Park for a reasonable rate. Especially at Christmastime, this was a great blessing.
o My dear friend, Dawn, visited and blessed me with encouragement and adventure.
o While at Biblical Tamar Park, I met amazing people including a group of from South Africa who invited me to visit them at some point during my journey.
o Through the above-mentioned friends in South Africa, I was connected to a friend in Durban, South Africa named Noelene. Noelene’s family members invited me to stay with them for about a week while Noelene and her son, Darryl have taken me all over Durban to show me their city. They all have blessed me with accommodations, time, fuel and ideas of places to see.
o When checking into a hostel in Ballito, South Africa, I was given an incredible rate for a suite after a mix-up in booking a co-ed dorm room.
When I went to Israel in September to simply visit friends, I had no idea that visit would eventually lead to South Africa but God knew. I had no idea I would need each expat and traveler as encouragement to continue pressing forward but God knew. I had no expectation of people to assist me financially and yet many along the way have blessed me in ways I have not been able to repay but God knew. Currently, I have no idea where this is headed next but God knows.
So if He knows each step and if I can trust Him, then what do I have to worry about? Nothing. I have nothing to worry about. God is clearly in charge of this adventure.
But what do I do when I am feeling lost, afraid, without hope or just treading water? As I looked in the Bible, I happen to notice Psalm 23, which many of you are familiar. This is a promise from God for anyone who is looking for hope and is brave enough to believe in Him. This passage is not just meant to be heard at funerals. It has daily implications. As you read the words, I challenge you to think about them deeply and the promises presented here:
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need. (If you do not think He has provided what you need, please keep reading…)
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams. (Who finds green meadows and babbling brooks peaceful?)
He renews my strength. (Who feels weary and needs new strength?)
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley, (What scary valley are you walking through?)
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me. (No fear in the dark, scary valley!)
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me. (He is prepared to do battle to protect you!)
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies. (Who are the enemies in your scary valley?)
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. (An award of honor received, even when you feel weary.)
My cup overflows with blessings. (Opportunity for blessing is endless!)
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”
(Picture yourself with green meadows, protection, feasts, comfort, awards of honor and overflowing blessings…forever! Sounds too good to be true? Call Him on His bluff and test Him!)
So then what is a goal oriented girl supposed to focus on during this unspecified travel time? Ah, great question with an answer I am still learning. Goals are clearly laid out in the Bible for those who have decided to believe in God. Here are the things He is instilling in me as I journey along:
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not need to force our way in life, able to marshal [organize] and direct our energy wisely.” Galatians 5:22-23 MSG
He is bringing gifts and blessings into my life. He has allowed me to lovingly connect with others, I am excited about my life and I ultimately have peace, even when I do not know the goal or it seems scary. I am sticking with this journey even though I have wanted to throw in the towel at times. I have growing compassion for people as I meet them and hear their stories. I understand that most people want to do what is right, even though others have a different point of view and opinion. I am continuously learning to not force my perspective or way of life on others – combine this with passion and understanding allows for compromise. My friends, I am learning that these things are the big picture goal!
If you have been offered a poor view of God, I encourage you to look into the real one. Give Him the opportunity to share who He is with you. Do not trust those who have given you a disastrous picture of Him. I do not like to be falsely accused of who I am or my intentions and I do not believe He does either. Go find out for yourself who He is, even if your skeptical, hesitant or even angry. Test Him!
Following His lead has been very advantageous for me. And now He has led me to South Africa. Since I do not know where my future is headed, I will focus my energy on continuing to improve the goals of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No law exists, anywhere, against these things.
These are only some of the connections I can pin point. This does not incorporate the miraculous links still to be realized. It is amazingly bizarre how one dot, one unrelated connection leads us to the next.
I still do not know where this path is headed, but I can find peace and rest in the One who says, “I am the path.”
Photos of Durban, South Africa:
Photos of Ballito, South Africa: