Wednesday, May 3, 2017

From Signposts to Destination

I began this as something I wanted to share with my church family this morning. However, it seemed to take on a mind of its own, and so developed into some thoughts that others might find helpful as well. It will give you an idea of how we encourage our people to share with one another so that our mutual journey of growing up in Jesus Christ builds up each other. It also addresses a specific characteristic of hindrances to our experience of God and his work, and the gracious counterpoint that constantly fills us with hope of knowing God better every day than we have ever known him before.

One of the themes that began weaving into my time with God this past week or so is the need to differentiate between things God does or teaches that are signposts pointing us in the right direction, and things he speaks about that are the real destination for our souls. This, of course, got me into writing about it, so I have found myself considering all kinds of ways people stop and set up camp at a signpost when the signpost has popped up to direct them to keep going in a certain direction.[1]

I find this to be the case when people take a “position” on some doctrinal issue and end up setting up camp around their label rather than treating the thing that happened, or the thing they learned, as a signpost to get them back to God’s word. Of course, I’m not judging that this is the case every time someone uses a doctrinal label to clarify where they are coming from. I’m only addressing those with a tendency to camp at signposts with the reminder that these directional markers are not there to give them a distinctive experience that becomes their lifetime source of identity or focus.

This can also take the form of things that come up in terms of memories, or painful feelings, or profound experiences of God speaking to us, causing us to set up camp at these things as if this is now our life-focus. Sometimes we become so painfully focused on these things that we don’t realize God brought them to mind as a signpost to direct our hearts to him in some way he was speaking about. Perhaps God told us that he heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds,[2] and we set up camp around how brokenhearted and wounded we are instead of letting the signpost direct our hearts into the love of God who heals all that ails us.

Other times we fabricate such an immediate fortress of self-protection against what God is doing that we set up camp at the signpost just as much as the person who has become addicted to the problem-solving life that always looks like it is doing God’s will at the signpost when it is really stubbornly refusing to move on. Our fears of whatever the signpost is pointing to, typically saturated with fear-based imaginings of the most creative variety, cause us to camp at the signpost while feigning such abhorrence of the signpost that people may not immediately recognize that we are just as much camping there as the ones who lavish their love on the signposts for giving them something to live for.

What is my comfort in this? First, that it is impossible to hunger and thirst for anything that describes our true destination in Christ without being ridiculed and rejected by all who set up camp at signposts, no matter how different they are from one another. Because our quest to find God in the destination makes us different from all the signpost-campers, we are rejected by all because our difference from them could only mean that we are wrong.

To know that this is just the way it is, rather than that the rejection is because of me as a person, comforts me that I am on the right track to where the signposts are pointing, and that the satisfaction in arriving where God is leading is greater than the ridicule of the signpost-campers who don’t want to go any further.

Second, that any time I realize I have been deluded into an obsessive relationship with a signpost, there is the Beatitudinal Journey towards the destination just waiting for me (or urging and helping me) to pack up camp and keep going.[3]

Hmmm… just as I was writing this last thought, I discovered another area in which this applies. We can experience people as signposts.

God can use people in our lives who relate to us in such a way that it opens up things that are missing in us. People may relate to us in loving and caring ways we have never experienced before, expressing a disarming sincerity that breaks through our walls of self-protection because we have never had to defend against loving and caring people since we have never met any previously! Their genuineness gets through to us in ways that expose unresolved issues, things still broken within us, and we can focus on the person, addicted to this experience of someone actually caring about us and how we are doing. We then become attached to the people in place of God instead of letting their lives, along with the things they have exposed within us, direct us to attach to God first and foremost.[4] Where God may be using this person to open up our hearts to a real soul-condition that we need to bring to him, our starving hearts may desperately attach to the signpost because no one has ever treated us this way before, and we still can’t believe that God could be like that.

On the other hand, in a defensive posture, because this person caring for us so sincerely, and in such contradiction to the way we believe we have been treated our whole lives, and because feeling vulnerable and real terrifies the heebie-jeebies out of us, we may also become obsessively focused on these people, not out of a longing to have a signpost-level relationship with them, but because we now have a very scary person that we must compulsively try to avoid like the plague. Out of fear of them, we set up camp and refuse to go any further.

As I was sharing these things with my home church, I realized that it exposed things (signposts) directing me to come to God with a willingness to see how much I need him, and a longing to get to know him in the ways I need. Since I’m still meditating on the scary, and nebulous, and wonderful hope of, “Through him then…”[5] I can see how God is using this Scripture as a signpost, directing me to consider how Jesus is more than a signpost to the Father, but is the door itself, the door that is the destination to the destination.

Hmmm… another comforting thought of what is ahead, likely beyond some more signposts that I might like or dislike enough to potentially hold me back, and that will direct me into the love of the Father whether I like the route or not. It makes me wonder what God is going to give me today through his church that will have the potential of leading me into something greater with him, if I don’t get stuck at the signpost.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] A longer presentation will arrive in the near future (hopefully).
[2] Psalm 147:3
[3] I have often shared how the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 show the transforming work of God that confronts us with the poverty of our spirits in any area of our lives (including the inferiority of signposts contrasted with the satisfaction of the destination), blesses us with the freedom to mourn whatever is wrong with us, leads us to the meekness that admits it cannot fix whatever is broken, and brings us to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is ours by grace through faith. Then then matures us into the merciful people of God whose pure hearts lead them to live as peacemakers who are fearless and joyful even in the face of persecution.
            The point here is that God may need to show us our poverty of spirit where we have set up camp at a signpost, bring us to mourn that where we are is nothing like the joyful life at the destination, cause us to meekly accept we cannot fix this in our own strength, and yet we can hunger and thirst for what God would do for us by grace through faith in leading us to the destination of knowing him as much as it is possible to know him this side of heaven.
[4] This attachment to God would likely keep those people in our lives, but our self-protective blindness usually has no ability to imagine this because our faith is in the power of bad experiences more than in the power of God to do all his love, and grace, and mercy, have planned for us.
[5] Hebrews 13:9

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