Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
I climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and I wrote a couple thoughts down as I hiked. I share them with a disclaimer: I participate here in the age-old writer’s tradition of comparing a mountain to life’s journey. The pile of rough drafts from writers who’ve used such a metaphor could likely form its own mountain. You can throw these blogs on top.
Not All Who Wander… (Pondering #4)
Our hike brought to mind Tolkien’s famous line turned bumper sticker, “Not all those who wander are lost”. As with most things, there are two sides to every coin. If you’re the parent that watches your teenager try on different identities in search of his own, this bumper stick might better serve on your bathroom mirror. I remember a season early in my adolescence when I experimented with the inclusion of swear words in my athletic vocabulary. In one-on-one basketball games with my dad, I responded to my own missed shots with shouts that would redden your ears. But my dad never scolded me. In fact, he never spoke of my language on multiple drives home. As look back I see that I wandered in search of myself without being lost under the shadow of the freedom and grace he offered.
On the other side of the coin, consider this: In the final stretch up Mt. Washington, no one traveled horizontally. No hiker jumped from rock to rock just to explore or play. You climb up, hike down, or lay there in hopes of rescue. I think of 1 Corinthians 9:
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
If life is a mountain, throwing pebbles into the steam at the mountain’s base may suffice for a while. But once the climb has begun, the stakes increase as does the danger, and wanderers get hurt or die. Three days before my hike last year, a man ventured off path and slipped down the face of the ravine. While it’s true that all who wander are not lost, many that do are. It’s interesting to note that of the 100 leaders with enough data to study in the Bible, only one-third finished well. Most of them failed in the last half of their life. As we increase in age, may our sense of purpose become narrower and more clearly defined as we live with deep intention founded on the God who bestows our identity.