‘Then they said ‘Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful. The priest answered them, ‘Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD’s approval.’
Judges 18 : 5-6
If you’ve ever been on a long car journey with a small child, you’ve also no doubt heard that well-worn phrase, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
And actually, my son’s version of this age old whine about long journeys goes something more like this at the point when he’s decided he’s had enough:
‘Mummy, mummmmmmeeeeee … I don’t like it car. I want to get out’
‘Mumeeeeeee … I want to get out’
And then it gets louder and more persistent, with him eventually thrashing in his car seat, kicking at the seat in front of him, and trying to wriggle his way free of his seatbelt, stubbornly refusing every distraction offered on principle.
‘Noooo, I don’t want it drink’
‘Noooo, I don’t want it spider-man’
‘Noooo, I don’t want it paw patrol book’
‘Noooo, I don’t want it watch mi-pad’ … which is actually my iPad which he has rebranded his ‘mi-pad’, and quite aptly so, as I never get a look in anymore!
The fact is that the middle part of the journey is almost always the hardest part, as any parent who has ever attempted a long car drive somewhere with their family will confirm.
But this whole journey scenario got me thinking about journeys and patience and waiting to arrive somewhere else… Because isn’t journeying with God a bit like this at times in our lives too?
The beginning of a journey is exciting and full of fresh anticipation about the adventure ahead. And the end part is usually just full of sheer relief and joy about having finally arrived at your destination.
But the middle part? The middle part of a journey is long and slow and often quite boring. It’s the part where enthusiasm wanes and impatience builds and characters are tested – the parents as well as the child’s!
The middle part also often feels like a long, hard slog that requires some grit and determination – especially when you hit a few bumps in the road, or get stuck in the traffic.
It’s the time when emotional resilience, patience and strength of resolve are most needed, when our sense of purpose get most tested, and our relationships become most stretched.
Because half way though the journey, when the kids are moaning, and the driver is tiring, and the navigator stressing, it can feel very tempting to just turn back …
It’s also when doubts begin to get voiced out loud… Are we going in the right direction? Was there a quicker route to take? Could we have avoided some of this traffic if we’d left at a different time?
Was setting out on this journey really the right decision in the first place? Maybe we should just have stayed at home …
And if you have been a christian for any real length of time, you’ve almost certainly had some times in your spiritual journey that have felt like this; times when you’ve felt a bit lost or just fed up of the journey, and ready turn back home …
Personally I’ve been feeling this way a lot lately; and even in the midst of hoping to conceive again, I’m growing tired of being in the middle, fed up of the endless waiting, and never being able to make firm plans for the future.
Because after several false starts due to miscarriage, this fertility journey of ours has been a lot longer, slower and more drawn out than I could have possibly imagined when we first set out, some 18 months ago. And the temptation to give up just keeps growing…
But what I’m realising is that what happens in the middle part of your journey, also says an awful lot about what’s in the middle of you too.
Or to quote a phrase from author John Piper, which I love: “The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our detours and delays.”
The middle part of the journey might feel uninspiring, but often it’s actually in the low points, the detours, the disappointing delays, and the not yets, where personal transformation really happens.