Is Life a Journey or a Destination?
Well, my wife Cathy and I did something we have not done in decades. We moved! Some people do it all the time, but not us. We threw away about ten million boxes of stuff, packed up approximately one million boxes of what remained, and put them on a truck. From there, we drove fifty miles south to the suburb of Greenwood for ministry with College Park Greenwood.
It was a surreal experience—not recommended for the faint in heart. Yet, just before this move, I read a really good book called On the Road with Saint Augustine, written by James K.A. Smith. It was a delightful read (a little heady, so brace yourself). I enjoyed it so much that I want to share two big take-aways and an application.
1. Is Life a Journey or a Destination?
Many people have said that life is a journey—a composite of many experiences. And I would tend to agree. If someone asked me to tell them about my life, I would probably share about my birth in California, my childhood and family in Baltimore (yeah Colts!), my wife, kids, and my walk with Jesus.
Yet, Augustine saw a deeper side of life. For him, life was a destination—the challenge was to find the right destination (or destiny).
Augustine was an African theologian born in 354 A.D. During his life, he went to Europe (Rome and beyond) to find his destination. As one of the most brilliant minds in the ancient world, Augustine thought Milan was the destination in which he could best demonstrate that—like Harvard for intellectuals or Wall Street for the finance gurus.
When he arrived, Augustine met great intellectuals and experienced lustful freedoms. He quickly realized Milan it was not all it was cracked up to be. In reflection, he wrote one of his most famous works, The Confessions, saying that he had looked for meaning in all the wrong places—sex, education, fame, etc. He thought that was the destination.
In On the Road with Saint Augustine, Smith summarizes this idea by saying, “humans are those strange creatures who can never be fully satisfied by anything created, thought that never keeps us from trying. We try to make the ‘road’ become home rather than leading us to home.”
2. What Is the Destination?
Is the destination a good church community, a good job, lots of money, great families? Maybe our goal on earth is to get to the location of heaven?
All these can be good goals. Heaven is good for sure—provided you aren’t thinking only of a place. As Smith summarizes, “we are not just pilgrims on a sacred march to a religious site (like heaven). We are migrants, strangers, resident aliens, in route to a homeland we’ve never been to. God is the country we are looking for.” In other words: God is what makes heaven, heaven.
As we consider that, it serves us well to reflect on one of Augustine’s most well-known quotes: “You made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” These oft-cited words echo those of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8, as he says that he is willing to lose everything “that I might gain Christ.”
The truth, then, is clear: true life is to be loved by God and to love him. That is the destination
3. So What?
In the last couple of months, Cathy and I have turned our life upside down. None of this change is bad, but I miss people and places. While I don’t agree with everything written by Augustine, reflecting on his words as shared by Smith has helped me immensely during this season. There are two key takeaways I have from this wonderful book:
- You can take all this world, but give me Jesus – it is important be moral and live life well. But, the key to life is living in and with Jesus. He says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” As you pursue life, do not miss the destination. Your destination should not be a big graduation, marriage, a nice house, a wonderful family, or a long life. These can be good, but they are not ultimate. We will never find our rest until we find it in him. Praise be to God who says “come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest (in him).”
- Though this world with devils filled… we will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph – Another summary quote in the book was “much of our restlessness and disappointment is the result of trying to convince ourselves that we are already home.” As believers we are “in Christ,” but the completion of that is yet to come. So, enjoy Jesus now and his good gifts, but realize we are in a fallen world. We are not yet home. Viruses and racially incited murders happen and will tragically continue to happen. Let us, as believers, resist evil, knowing that it is not ultimate. Let’s keep our eyes on him—our destination and our goal—that we may find rest for our souls—and bodies.