About a week and a half ago, I was talking with my good friend Ben Padula which is always an enjoyable thing to do because our conversations generally end with him imparting some sort of sage wisdom on me to encourage my heart. But these last few weeks have had the added benefit of a side discussion concerning the television show LOST. As of today, there are only three whole episodes remaining in the entire show. In case you are missing the significance of this, let me catch you up. LOST has been a staple in my life for the past six years. I started watching it the night the pilot aired and I haven’t stopped since. Needless to say,the looming presence of its end is causing a mixture of reactions within me, both excitement and sadness – excitement for finally getting my questions answered and sadness that the adventure will have to come to an end.
Now before you think I’m too lame (and before I start crying about LOST wrapping up), let me take this somewhere meaningful. I mentioned the fact that I was feeling a little remorseful about my favorite show’s ending to Ben and it started us on a conversation that has been on my mind since. He made a comment to me about how compelling those types of stories are to most people these days. We are captivated by the epic, attached to the characters, and we love to get lost in the adventure. But as much as that adventure creates within us a longing for the end, it seems that we are never truly satisfied when it arrives. It’s like Frodo from The Lord of the Rings. When he finally destroys the ring and tries to return to his home in Bag End, he can’t stand the stillness and quiet of it all because of everything that happened. How do you go back to what you did prior to a life-altering, and in his case, world-changing event? I’m not sure you do. And even more than that, I’m not sure that we were created to. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that life is about the journey more than the end.
This idea has been running through my head for the last couple of weeks because I have been wanting to write a blog about it, but also because these have been my last couple of weeks of college. As of yesterday, I took my last undergraduate final ever and now I am just waiting to graduate. Yesterday turned out to be an interesting day for me though. I have written in the past about works-based righteousness and how it tends to affect me in terms of grades and GPA. It has been a challenge this semester to find the balance between pursuing perfection for my own sake and doing everything with excellence for the Lord’s sake. Aware of this, I woke up early yesterday to study a little, read my Bible, and pray before going to campus to take my final. I really wanted to find Scripture that spoke to my heart’s motives. As I was praying, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 came to me: For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I had to smile a little when this happened because it immediately took me back a few years. When I first began college in the fall of 2006, I memorized this verse before my first exam to help me settle the anxiety I was having about not doing well on it. In nearly every subsequent exam that year, I would quote to myself the part about fixing my eyes on the things unseen because they are eternally lasting. But what was significant about yesterday is that God chose to use a Scripture that encouraged me in my freshman-year collegiate ambitions in the exact same way four years later. Similarly, as I was sitting in the classroom waiting for the exam to begin, I had my iPod on and I was listening through a playlist I made recently. I hardly ever get to the end of it before shutting it off, but this time I did. One of the last songs is called Everything by Lifehouse and when it started playing, I had to smile yet again. My first year at UT was a difficult one because I moved to Austin without knowing anyone and felt pretty intimidated and alone on many levels. But this song kept me encouraged consistently. I listened to it almost every single day that year and I was comforted by it nearly every one of those days. Again, the significance of God quieting my spirit by using a song that is very dear to my heart was not lost on me.
What I am leading up to in all of this is the journey. That is what it is all about and I am so thankful that Truth has been impressed upon me. The verse and the song were the clarity God chose to use to make me take a look back at my life and see what He is continuing to do rather than what I claim to have finished. In my prayers lately, I have found myself thanking God for the opportunity to close this chapter (college) of my life. In hindsight, that’s really all it is, a chapter. I love that the things that we are given in life are never accomplishments or checked boxes on our to-do list. Though I had not read the verse from 2 Corinthians or listened to Everything in a very long time, they both moved me on an equal, if not stronger level than they did when I first found them. Life is a full-circle journey in which everything has meaning and purpose. Fortunately for us, that is the story of Scripture as well. God has given us life in a world He created full of shadows of the things to come, but He also gives us a journey in fixing our eyes on the things unseen, a place that we will one day enter into filled with everlasting glory and joy that will satisfy us in every way. Even the reasoning behind why we should look to the things unseen alludes to the journey – because those things are eternal. Our final union with God in heaven is not an end. It is eternity, a journey without end.
Bearing this in mind, I am thankful that God has allowed me to see LOST to its near end. I am thankful He has permitted me to complete college. And I am looking forward to the new doors He has opened for my life as He leads me through them. Psalm 139:16 tells of God having written all of our days in His book when as yet there were none of them. As I consider the upcoming steps I will be taking in my journey, I can’t help but picture God flipping to the next page, the next chapter, coming close to me and softly reading those words that He has already written and knows so well. Our journey is the greatest of all because we are living out His story every moment of our lives.
So now I am turning to the next chapter, thankful for the story God has already given me, and listening closely to the great tales He has written for the next part of my journey.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18