There are times when we all wonder just why it is we are traveling a particular road we are on. We just cannot put our finger on why it is we are facing the challenging, and sometimes a little treacherous road we must cross. In those moments, we wonder if we made a wrong turn somewhere, or if this is the way is life us supposed to be - complete with potholes, narrow and sometimes hair-raising switch-backs, and climbs so hard you almost peter out on the way up. I guess I face those roads a little differently than some. Instead of wondering why I am on the road, I just ask! In fact, in time I come to discover something unique about every road I have traveled - I am not traveling it alone! In truth, I may have made a wrong turn - but I still don't travel alone. I have Jesus right alongside me no matter what road I am on and this one thing I know - I cannot "bail" - the road will be traveled!
Keep and live out the entire commandment that I’m commanding you today so that you’ll live and prosper and enter and own the land that God promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child. (Deuteronomy 8:1-5 MSG)
The tougher part of "traveling" so many roads over the course of a lifetime is the "remembering" part. Most of my journeys on vacations lately have involved exploration of areas I have never been before, or those I'd like to explore again simply because it was so enjoyable to my soul to just travel there for a while. I don't particularly remember the names of all the places, but there are "imprinted" images of some of the most beautiful spots. I see things through the eyes of a photographer sometimes - capturing permanent images of a few blades of grass holding on for dear life from the side of a rocky outcropping, or maybe the mossy covering of a log settle on the shoreline of a lazily flowing creek bed. These are images I recount when I want to remember some of the beauty of these travels - not just in photographs, but in "photo quality memories".
There are also a few traveled roads I'd like to put out of my memory - how about you? Those were the toughest roads to travel and took the biggest toll on me to boot. If I were to be honest, those roads seemed to be some of the longest journeys I have taken - and the loneliest! I have always had great traveling companions when those fond memories were made. I wonder why I don't remember my traveling companions on those hard roads just the same? Maybe it is because we all have a tendency to want to block those difficult memories - those times of traversing over those roads of regret we all have traveled. I challenge us today to not forget those travels, though. I believe even the toughest roads - those riddled with potholes of regret - were never traveled alone and were not without purpose, opportunity, and learning.
Israel traveled 40 years in a desert place, sometimes too caught up in themselves to recognize how long they had been traveling the same piece of ground over and over again. That is how it is with us sometimes - we get so "inward" focused and cannot even appreciate we are traveling the same piece of ground repeatedly. I think my pastor calls it being to "me", "me", "me" focused. It is kind of like not being able to see the tree right in front of us because there is a forest so vast and dense all around us. When we immerse ourselves in the misery of the moment, we cannot see the exit which may be our ultimate deliverance.
Keep in mind what Moses was instructing Israel in our passage - don't forget even one step of the journey! None of those steps were without purpose. In those times of our toughest challenges, God was showing himself strong on our behalf, allowing us to see a little bit of where our focus was too much "me", "me", "me", and maybe even giving us a little taste of what heaven was like in the end. We will remember the "heaven" part, but we have a tendency to forget the parts in-between! Those times when we were pushed to our limits - seemingly tested to the point of breaking - those are the times we want to put behind us, walk away from, and never turn back. Yet, I believe there is value in remembering the lessons of the journey - capturing even "snip-its" of the moments where we came face-to-face with either ourselves or God (hopefully both).
Those journeys were not purposeless - they were the very opportunities God used to show us exactly what we are made of and what he wants to do and be on our behalf. In coming to the place of recognizing what our "make-up" is, we can take heart in knowing God "makes-up" for what we lack. In learning how he comes to our rescue each and every time we call we have appreciated his ever-present guidance in our lives. In discovering the depth of our need, we also discover the depth of his love and mercy. These are indeed "worthy" memories of the journeys we might want to "put behind". Just sayin!
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