Hardly a story told does not involve a journey – religious stories, fairy tales, songs, poems, novels, and many non-fictional topics. All of these may recount human (or animal) experiences of getting from “here” to “there.” Here and there can, of course, be metaphorical, emotional, physiological, psychological, or geographic. The decision to embark and the degree to which the experience turns out to be unpredictable are significant elements in many stories.

Perhaps these journeys intrigue us because our personal stories and journeys also involve elements of decision and unpredictability. Sometimes people refer to the decisions facing them as “no-brainers,” implying that the correct choice should be obvious to anyone. In my experience, relatively few of life’s decisions exhibit enough clarity that the answers become at all obvious. Typically, the “no-brainer” evaluation is made by one person about another person’s decision. Again, in my experience, one person is seldom, if ever, qualified to decide for someone else. The obvious exception to that statement is in the relationship between a parent and a young child, though that should be a very short-lived arrangement. I offered some perspective (hardly comprehensive) on decision-making in last week’s post.

For the sake of this discussion, let me distinguish between two very different kinds of journey. The first focuses on achieving a particular end. While the specific path might not be determined precisely, the journey is about getting to the destination as quickly as possible. The second kind of journey is more about direction than destination. Its objective is to make your next move in a particular direction from where you presently find yourself. But you do not know where you will end up, nor can you know precisely what your next direction will or even can be.

It has been my observation that many life journeys end up being severely restricted when we evaluate them only in terms of reaching the destination. How many times do people say, “When I get through this, then I’ll be fine – I will have arrived.” In most of life’s real journeys, the promise of reaching a destination seldom delivers the expected sense of completion. We realize that the journey continues. There always seems to be another hill to climb, another test to pass. “Maybe next time…” we say.

What, then, does it look like if we plan our journeys based on direction and experience, rather than on reaching the destination? Well, for starters, it takes a lot of pressure off of us. Destinations imply success or failure – we reach them or we don’t. Journeys based on chosen directions invite us to experience and learn as we go. Perhaps I’ve said in other places that “Life can be lived experimentally, inviting us to learn along the way, rather than as a series of tests to determine our absolute value as human beings.

Here’s a small example: I’m finishing this blog post on Friday morning, not Wednesday morning as usual. If Wednesday was my destination, then I failed. If, however, I realize that this week has presented me with some interesting detours, then Friday morning is simply Friday morning, not proof of failure. I will still aim for posting again next Wednesday, but when it actually gets done, and what I will choose to write about, will be determined by many factors, most of which haven’t happened yet.

The best I can do is prepare myself to be a learner. I will try to pass some of that learning along next week.

By the way, those of you who read Community of Promise will find that the Promised Land in my story is not a destination, it is a matter of quality of community, and it happens all along the journey.

Blessings on Your Journey,
Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”

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