As I’ve written before, I am a goal setter, a resolution maker (see my 2017 goals or 100 Life Goals), but all too often my goals are what I already think I can achieve, which means they may be hard but probably aren’t too scary. Even in goal setting I play it safe.
I recently read a Bible story about a time when Jesus was trying to escape the crowds and find a solitary place to pray (which makes total sense to me). His disciples tracked him down and said, everyone has been looking for you. Jesus said, “Let’s go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.” (Mark 1:35-38)
What caught my attention in this story was the phrase – let’s go somewhere else. It’s too ambiguous. I expect more details from Jesus. When I ask God for direction I hope he’ll give me specific instructions – exactly where to go and when to leave, the name of a town, or at least a compass direction.
Planning is important to me. I won’t go backpacking without checking my gear list and plotting my route on a topo map and leaving notes for Cyndi so she’ll know where I’ll be in case I don’t come back and she needs to send out a search party. In fact, two months ago I started planning for an extended backpacking trip that won’t happen until next July. I would prefer few surprises while I am on the trail.
Often, when people asked where Jesus was going, he simply told them, “Follow me.” That’s not enough information for us planning types. Just going somewhere else doesn’t sound very safe. But Jesus seems to like surprises.
The easiest way to avoid surprises in life is to do nothing at all ... take no risks, never go somewhere else, stay where it’s safe.
Unfortunately, there is a price to pay sitting on the couch in safety. We find ourselves stuck living in a small world with small-world problems; making a small impact on people. It leads to paralyzed lives, not the life that God intends for us.
A few months ago Cyndi and I took our two young granddaughters to see the movie Finding Dory. One of the characters, an octopus named Hank, preferred to live in the safety (and confines) of an aquarium rather than live in the wild, huge ocean. He said, “I just want to live in a glass box. Alone. That’s all I want.”
I recently listened to a podcast interview with Zachary Quinto, the actor who plays Spock in the new set of Star Trek movies. He described how he plans his life, but also tries takes advantage of surprise opportunities. He works hard to live his life along two parallel tracks. One track is purpose-driven, goal-setting, and intentional, while the other track is random and spontaneous, full of serendipitous opportunities.
So one of my goals is to be open to Jesus’ surprises, which means leaving margin in my own plans to be ready for change. I want to go somewhere else more often. Maybe not somewhere else geographically, although I certainly want to do that, but maybe somewhere else in ideas, experiences, and conversations. Somewhere I didn’t plan or research, somewhere that scares me.
If you have ideas for me, I’d love to hear them. But don’t be surprised if I reach for my map and calendar first.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32