The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is about the journey and not the destination. It’s about the little things that go on from day to day and week to week that put the color in the story of our lives. The “marrow of life” is really, when you think of it, what happened this week, and more specifically, today. Henry David Thoreau says it well:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
Sometimes we feel like we can’t see the forest for the trees—or worse, we are stuck in the forest. Yet perhaps it will be those forest encounters and stories of survival that we end up talking about the most to our grandchildren as we sit in front of the fire and no longer have the energy to do what we once did.
In a survey given to people of 90 years of age or older, there was one question that asked “If you had your life to live over again, what would you do differently?” The three top answers to that question were (1) I would take more risks, (2) I would reflect more on what I was doing, and (3) I would give myself to something that would outlive me. It is that second answer that applies here. So often we rush forward toward the finish line so quickly we forget to smile at the faces we see and smell the roses we find along the way.
Without a doubt, all members of the “human race” seem to be sprinting toward the finish line of life from the time we’re born until the day we die. It’s as if we fully expect to arrive, yet when the race of life is over, we all settle on the final conclusion that the search has just begun.
Getting what we want is one of life’s greatest achievements and also one of life’s great disappointments. The joy of satisfaction lasts but a moment, then we discover that it wasn’t everything we thought it would be; it was not enough to make us happy and fulfilled. We need more. So it is because this is how we were created–with a longing for eternity in our hearts.
Jesus touched on this in his conversation with the woman at the well when he said
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Here was a woman who had had been married 5 times and was back at it a 6th time with another man, trying to make a relationship work, trying to arrive at happiness. But inside she has a thirst for something more. Jesus knew this.
We are all like the Samaritan woman. Our thirst is never quenched in this life, and our sources all eventually dry up. But Jesus promised a source of on-going fulfillment on the inside of us “welling up to eternal life.”
The Message version reads:
“The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” (vs 14)
Life is in the journey, not the destination. Eternal life is a never-ending journey of victory after victory, joy after joy, discovery after discovery.
When I was 16 years old, I had a radical conversion to Christianity. I fell in love with Jesus. I told all of my friends I had found Jesus, I knew Jesus. When it first happened I honestly felt it was a done deal—a one-off experience. I felt like I had arrived. But I hadn’t. In fact, I was just getting started!
My relationship with Jesus continued in the many years that followed, and I can say, looking over my life, that I have discovered Jesus again and again. And again.
Knowing Jesus isn’t a one-off. It’s an on-going experience. In fact, I am convinced there is so much of him to be known and experienced, that we will never stop discovering new and wondrous things about him.
“…that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7)
The Apostle Paul summed up his goal in life as he wrote from prison:
“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)
We do press toward the goal, and that is a good thing. As Victor Frankl pointed out in his landmark book “Man’s Search For Meaning,” we all need a goal greater than ourselves, something worthy of our highest commitment. He asserted what the 90-year respondents concluded: we all need to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves, something that will outlive us.
Will we ever arrive? I don’t think so. In the ages to come, there will be more adventures, more mountains to climb, more joys to experience, and more dreams to build. This is why I am thrilled that life, indeed, is about the journey!