Being a parent is hard. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s terrifying. And then, sometimes, it’s awesome.
Today has been one of those awesome days. Our daughter made a treasure hunt for us, complete with personalized maps and unique treasures for each of us. The sweetest part about the whole thing was the care she put into designing it for us as individuals. The maps were in our own favorite colors, and the clues were tailor made for us. Ben and I weren’t on the same quest, we each had our own.
That’s a lot like life. We are each on our own journey, and we have our own maps. Everything about them is unique to us. Who we are is written into every part of our journey, and simultaneously is shaped by that journey. It can be a temptation to peek at other people’s maps and follow their clues. Don’t do it. It’s a trap.
We’ve all heard it said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” That goes for maps, too. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to look at one person’s life and try to figure out my next step-or my next 10 steps-based on someone else’s clues. Our path will never make sense if we’re following directions meant for someone else. When I give in to the temptation of comparing my journey to my husband’s, to my friend’s, or to the person’s down the street, things get all wonky. I lose my way, and I have to take a time out to reorient myself, be reminded of who I am, and then find what my next step is.
And that’s where life’s journey looks a little different than my daughter’s creation. I don’t know about you, but my life’s journey has looked a lot more like following a breadcrumb path, one tiny crumb at a time, than a complete plan. On the little marker-drawn maps our daughter gave us, we could see the whole thing all mapped out and everything was clear, including the destination. Wouldn’t that be nice? But then again, I wonder if I would’ve been able to handle knowing all that’s been a part of my journey so far. I wonder if part of God’s wisdom is revealing to us only what we can handle, which in my case is very little. I’ve learned that I can only handle one step at a time, and that’s ok. Sometimes I desperately want to see more, but then how would I learn to trust? That’s the beauty and the frustration of the “breadcrumb path” we’re following. Following each little bread crumb is not only getting us a little closer to our destination, but it’s growing our trust in the one who’s made the path. And I think the latter is so much more important.
Following each little breadcrumb one at a time is stretching, causing us to depend on the mapmaker instead of the map.
I think another reason I’m only given one step at a time is that speed is not beneficial. God is not rushed. God is patient with me, and knows life is best taken one day at a time. Jesus said, “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I think this profound wisdom goes largely unheeded in our culture. Our society is get ahead, plan ahead, be prepared, be on top of it, and “nice guys finish last” (as if finishing last is a fate worse than death). Our world is obsessed with worry. It is completely countercultural to say “no” to worry and “yes” to trust. But part of living set apart as people of God is precisely this radical trust. And there is a rhythm of life to this kind of trust that is completely unlike the world’s frantic, panicky pace. Jesus lived it, and he calls us to follow his example. He is the prince of peace, and we, as his followers, are to walk in his peace as a sign to the world of God’s peaceful kingdom. But I’ll never live as a person at peace if I am frantically trying to keep up with the world, trying to get ahead, trying to make progress all by grinding my own wheels. I have to trust my father and follow the steps he shows me, one. at. a. time.
Walking the path crumb by crumb is slowing us down, growing our patience, and making us carriers of peace in the world.
Part of the reason for the slowness of the journey is that I’m being transformed. Each step God shows me is a natural outflow of who I am, and yet also a challenging move into who I will become. I’m going from glory to glory, from who I was yesterday to the person I will be tomorrow, and that takes time. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Each step builds upon the last, so that each single move in itself is not a monumental leap, but yet when I look back at where I started, I see that I’ve climbed a mountain. It wouldn’t make sense if you were trying to live my story, because it would be disconnected from who you are. God uniquely designs all of us, and the paths he leads us on are as beautifully diverse as the people we are.
Slowly following my own unique path is transforming me into the person I was created to be.
So, friends, let’s not worry about where God is taking the person next to us. Let’s seek God and our unique next step will be made clear. We’re all in this together, but we won’t be able to help each other if we’re trying to live each other’s story. Although I can’t follow your map, seeing you confidently walk the path God’s laying out for you gives me courage. When you discover a bread crumb and exercise the faith it takes to move, my faith is built. And I can cheer you on knowing that God is being glorified in all of us as we follow him, breadcrumb by breadcrumb.