As we talk about travel each Thursday we also often think about journey’s. As we seek our destination it is the journey that has the most impact. Today Michelle from Insight for Girls is going to take us on a journey of a different kind and challenge us to think about our steps differently.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Walden Emerson
When I was in my mid 20s, a quote I loved hung from my bathroom mirror. It said:
“Remember, God is interested in the journey, not just the destination…God is in no rush… He wants to use this process, and all the questions and uncertainties it involves, to refine us, sanctify us, and increase our faith.” (Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl)
During that season of life, I eagerly desired to meet the man God intended for me to marry. I repeatedly read the quote above and reminded myself that the journey mattered. How I waited mattered. How I dated mattered. I vulnerably gave God my hopes as I trusted Him with my heart’s journey.
Fast forward five-plus years. In God’s perfect timing, I met and married my husband and moved to Chicago to begin our life together. Finally, I had arrived at my long-awaited destination. Or so I thought.
A year and a half into marriage, much to our shock, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My sweet, ideal world of playing house with my husband was rudely interrupted by an extremely frightening health issue. For the next six months, I underwent two surgeries and chemotherapy, complete with losing all of my hair.
Clearly, being diagnosed with cancer was no where near the destination I envisioned. And certainly walking the cancer road was about the farthest thing from the journey I desired. But after the shock wore off and our new normal set in, I began to ask God the same question I asked Him five years earlier: What do you want me to learn on this journey? This isn’t the journey I’d choose, God, but if this is what You have for me, I want to walk it well.
God certainly has answered that question by teaching me many priceless lessons along this undesired-but-so-valuable journey. After reflecting on this past year and a half, here are a few lessons I continue to learn on my journey:
A couple years before I married my husband Jared, I lived a very fast-paced life as a fourth grade Language Arts teacher. My work was never finished as I was constantly grading essays, personal narratives, and biography scrapbooks. In my spare time, my college roommates and I created and presented a teenage girls’ conference. Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also was completing my master’s degree in teaching and writing.
Every minute of my time was accounted for and though it was a rich season, I was exhausted. So exhausted that I took a year’s leave of absence to move to Orlando for a change of scenery to write for Campus Crusade for Christ’s magazine. Since that time, God has been teaching me about slowing down and used my cancer diagnosis to drive home the lesson.
Over the course of the last year and half, God has taught me that when He said “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy” in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8), He wasn’t just suggesting that if I didn’t have anything else to do, I could take a nap. He tells us to rest because He knows that not only our minds but our physical bodies and hearts need a break to restore and rejuvenate. Resting still isn’t natural to me, but I notice that when I slow the pace of my life down, I am much more attentive to what matters in life and much more likely to tune in to hear from God.
As described above, I lived quite a full life and stopping to listen wasn’t really on my to-do list. Sure, I made time to read my Bible and write in my prayer journal, but I was mostly the one doing the talking rather than intentionally listening to hear what God had to say to me. Quieting my mind of the constant distractions takes intentional effort but I find that when I do, I often hear God impressing on my heart a significant truth that I needed and that He wants me to hear.
Spend my time wisely.
One of the byproducts of looking cancer in the face is thinking about the legacy I want my life to leave. Although I have always tried to live intentionally, I have been thinking more about how I am spending my time and if it is honoring to God. For instance, shopping is one of my favorite pastimes and I could spend hours walking around my favorite stores searching for bargains. There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying shopping, but if I am often spending my time shopping to merely distract myself from life’s stress with cute shoes, I need to reevaluate my priorities. I have been trying to look at life through a more intentional lens and ask myself, “is this a good and healthy use of my time?”
Leave the control to God.
I wouldn’t say I am an off-the-charts control freak, but I guess anyone that starts off this sentence that way has a bit of control running through her blood. Ha! As I’ve analyzed my life, I’ve realized that one of the ways I try to control life is by worrying. Somehow I think if I constantly chew on a thought over and over, it will prepare me for a pending disaster. God has taught me so much about this concept, but I still have many days where I drive myself crazy worrying about what-if scenarios.
Recently I’ve been realizing that I’ve tried to control my life post-cancer by eating a strict diet. When I find myself assessing in my mind if that food dish is better than the other or keeping a runny tally of how many veggies I’ve eaten for that day, I know that I’m leaning a bit too far toward control. While I know eating healthy directly relates to my health and is extremely important, God has also been showing me that He is ultimately in control of my future—not me or the healthy nutrients I consume.
Five years ago, I naively and romantically thought that by marrying the man of my dreams, I would arrive at one of life’s sunny rose-filled destinations. And although I love being married to my husband and have been blessed by my marriage, I have come to realize this is only one aspect of my journey.
Having a thriving marriage is not the destination. Nor is having children. Or having the perfect job. Or being cancer-free. Yes, these are highlights along the journey but they are not the destination because they will never provide the satisfaction that we are looking for them to give.
Instead, God is teaching me to seek Him along my journey, even when the path twists and turns with highs and lows and takes me to places I never wanted to go. He is reminding me to keep my eyes on Him and ask Him to reveal the lessons in my journey.
When we do this, He promises to give us a hope that doesn’t disappoint and a peace that surpasses all understanding. And experiencing His presence is by far the most satisfying destination.
God said [to Moses], “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.” (Exodus 33:14, The Message)
“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.” (1 Peter 1:18a, The Message)
Michelle is the author of Insight For Girls and is currently living in the hope that God has for her life. Visit her online at Insight For Girls, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to her blog!