This is a tale of a journey. A journey is usually not truly about the beginning or the end, but the traveling along the way. Life is usually seen the same way. But every part of the journey is critical. My Total Knee Replacement has been my most recent journey. It hasn’t gone as I expected and there have been some hiccups along the way. Not to mention a bit of grunting, groaning and harrumphing. But those are normal. It’s hard work to make a very swollen knee bend and straighten. I began well and thought it would be piece of cake. But we are not always traveling on smooth flat roads in life. Sometimes life throws curves, hills and ditches. There have been some things about this recovery process that I wasn’t expecting, though have since found out are very normal. What I need to remember is that starting well and finishing well don’t always look the same and it is what is in between that can determine the outcome. Continuing well is the key. Ending well is our aim. Then we can shout Hallelujah!
The vast majority of babies born begin well. Think of the sweet little babies that were oohed and ahhed over, but grew up to be an Adolf Hitler, or a Nero, or on a smaller scale, a crazed young person who goes into a school or a theater and begins shooting away his wrath that is not even aimed at these victims, though they become the recipients of that wrath. At one point they were precious little babies. Sweet. Tender. Beautiful. But . . . they did not end well! What happened? In between beginning well, and ending well is continuing well! That is the journey. They made wrong turns or were sent on wrong roads by misguided others. Their journey did not go where it was supposed to go. Somehow, they did not continue well.
You say that is pretty drastic thinking. Yes. Not everyone who does not end well becomes a murderer. Some may not end well, but on a much smaller scale, and one that is not so morally frought. It may be something totally different, and each one of us has our own areas of failure. OK, more likely many areas. Let’s be honest. We are not perfect and neither is our journey. But it is not just the ending that is important, though that is our aim, our goal, our vision. We must not lose sight of the vision, but again, the daily toil is made up of continuing well.
There are also many, many people who seemingly did not begin well, but against all odds, by continuing well, they have ended well, or at least are keeping on continuing well. Here are a few wonderful examples: Jen Bricker, a young woman who was born without legs, but has grown up to be an incredible athlete and an inspiration to many- (http://jenbricker.com/); Jessica Long, another award-winning athlete without legs- (http://jessicalong.org/index.php/gallery/swimming); Mark Stutzman, a man born without arms who “does everything with his feet — eat, drive (non-modified vehicles, even stick shifts), write (more legibly than most people), and punch the keys on his cell phone faster than most people with their fingers.” (http://www.oddee.com/item_97470.aspx) Mark holds his own in Compound Bow Archery Tournaments, World Cup Tournaments, and even became an Olympic Medalist; Stephen Wiltshire who as a child, was mute and autistic, but is now a World Famous Artist who can draw extremely detailed cityscapes from memory after seeing them for just a few minutes. Check out his gallery: (http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/gallery.aspx); Tanya Erhart, Joel Brown, and Toke Broni Strandby – talented dancers with physical handicaps who dance in the Candoco Dance Company. (http://www.candoco.co.uk/)The list is seemingly endless.
There are people in all walks of life who have challenges in life far greater than mine who have made so much more of their lives from a cultural, artistic, academic, or even political standpoint, and who stand out as inspirational icons to those who live life in the mediocre in so many aspects of our lives. Those people have continued well! They excel because they work hard to achieve their goals. They do not give up when the going gets tough. Life is a mighty tough journey for so many folks.
Sometimes life hands out poverty as a challenge, yet there are countless stories of folks who have worked hard and risen above poverty to go on to do amazing things in life. Sometimes those challenges come in the middle of one’s life. Like folks who have been in horrific accidents and needed limbs amputated or who have become quadriplegics. But instead of indulging in depression and lethargy, they have taken the challenge and worked hard and overcome by rising above the challenge and making the most of their lives. The examples are endless. It doesn’t have to be fame or fortune to end well. It can be triumph in the face of overwhelming odds. It can be simply putting one foot in front of the other when it seems that it is too hard to move at all.
But the best ending is what comes after this life. And so is the worst. Our journey affects that ending. The best ending comes after surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, suffering its shame, and rose again after death, and has sat down at the right hand of God the Father. He offers new life, life everlasting. He offers the best ending. The worst ending is to reject Him and the gift of life He offers. Then one is choosing an eternity apart from Him and His mercy, suffering in hell where there is no mercy, love or comfort.
I really want to end well. I want my kids to end well. I want the noble calling of Christ to be their highest calling and aim, and I would love it if the journey were easy and the aim easy to achieve. But life is filled with pot-holes and detours, hiccups and hamstrings. And the journey is often accompanied by the harrumphing of those who are heaving themselves over the boulders strewn in their path. I’m sure you know what I mean. It is a very rare person indeed who has smooth sailing all the way and never hits an obstacle.
I call those obstacles, hiccups. They seem to come out of nowhere, and throw you for a loop with their intensity and duration. It’s no trouble at all to walk on the pebbles. It is very little effort to traverse a gravel path. But the bigger the rocks become, the more difficult it is to continue walking smoothly. Soon you must step carefully so as not to twist your ankle. Then the rocks grow more and you must step ON them to cross the river. Soon enough, you come to a place where there are boulders that either must be detoured around or climbed over. I have heard that is the way with the path up our Mt. Pilchuck. Maybe these physical hiccups and harrumphs are training me for climbing Pilchuck. But more importantly, all of my hiccups – my challenges and trials – are training me for climbing Mt. Zion, the city of God. God desires our unending devotion to Him, not because He is vain and wants it for Himself, but because He knows that by giving Him our devotion, by believing in Christ and submitting to His Lordship in our lives, we are overcomers, and our destination is assured – eternal life in heaven with Him. Not because we did it. But because He did it in us. And our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If you don’t know about that Book, read the book of Revelation in the Bible.
My prayer for you is that you continue well, and end well, no matter what obstacles and hiccups are in your path. Look to the One Who holds your future in His hand. Seek Him and He will be found.
Keep calm and journey on!