Its spring and time for newness. The re-emergence of life from the weight of winter, the lifting of the burden of restriction and the hopefulness that this dark season is coming to its conclusion together draw our eyes and hearts towards the new horizon. We have felt the earth shake, seen normal life reduced by fear and regulation, known and witnessed suffering and grief and shared lives lived and lost heroically serving and saving the sick, the lonely, and the bewildered.
At times like these we look forward, but we look forward to different things in a world different to the one we left more than a year ago. For some, the way on will be to try to regain what was lost, to restore or recreate the life we lived before. For many I suspect, that will not be possible. Few of us would see ourselves as adventurers, explorers discovering unknown lands. At best, we may follow a map, or our sat-nav to somewhere we do not know.
Those who follow Jesus often claim that God has a plan for their lives, a map with a path marked on it, a post-code typed and a purple line marking the way. But the world has changed, familiar landscapes become hidden behind strange features and the clear paths have faded to fresh fields. God’s promised plan seems so pale that it is hard to make out against the light of the new dawn. Plans and action dissipate, replaced with questions and uncertainty. We do not want to make a mistake, to set off in the wrong direction, we desire to do God’s will, to follow his plan but we do not know what it is anymore.
Perhaps you do not know Jesus. Perhaps you used to be clear about where your life was heading, what you wanted from it and how you hoped things would work out. Perhaps now you are not so sure. May I reassure you. You are not alone. As I have got older, learned things and lived a little more life, any confidence that I used to have about the direction my life would go and any conviction I may have had about my own ability to make good decisions has begun to fade. Life is hard, good and bad things happen often for seemingly no reason, sickness strikes and death robs the world of lives that shone light into ours, and yet inside me there is a lurking certainty that life has purpose and how I chose to live it, through all the uncertainty, still matters.
The Bible relates the story of God’s dealings with the people he chose to reveal himself to in ancient times. That story carried on through history and continues in the present day. In its pages God reveals to us his purposes; not how we were made as there is no science or medicine in its pages, but what we were made for. It tells us, through accounts of individual lives and the actions of nations, that life is not meaningless and through all this God is working out his plan for saving and restoring this world. It tells us that we are all born a little broken, made to bear the image of God, made for a full and rich life but marred by sin.
All this may be hard for us to see through our 21st century western eyes, which focus on individual freedoms and personal fulfilment. Sometimes I think we want God to have drawn up a personal plan for our lives to follow, which will still be there no matter how many times we wander off it to pursue our own dreams and desires, no matter how the world changes around us. God has chosen not to reveal the future to us, save that which he describes in scripture. He does not tell us what will happen tomorrow nor does he give us a personalised plan. He has given us so much more than that.
The truth is, we are loved by God. More than we can ever imagine. More than our own frailties and failure make possible. We are loved, and that gives us value and purpose and a plan. We are loved as individuals but more importantly we are loved as community, loved so much that God describes us, when we come together as his own body. The spiritual combining with the physicality of our beings. Our being loved, our belonging in and to God then gives us purpose today and a destiny, a destination for tomorrow.
I have no illusions about the path ahead. Jesus lived his life immersed in the will of his Father. He lived it richly, abundantly and generously. He brought healing and hope wherever he went. He brought meaning and purpose and freedom and peace to the people he met. That’s the sort of life I would like to live, and yet the path he chose was one of service and suffering. His life upturned the ranking tables of power and prosperity. He chose poverty rather than wealth, persecution rather than popularity, servanthood rather than leadership and rejection rather than reverence. He saw the glory beyond this world’s death to give life to those that would come after him, those that would walk with him.
I am content, therefore, to set out again, along untrod paths to unfamiliar places, without a postcode destination or a clear plan to follow. I am content because I do not need these things and because God has not chosen to reveal them to me. I am confident because I do not walk this path alone, I walk it with the others God has placed me in community with, and we walk it with the one who has promised never to leave us or forsake us. I know that if we follow his ways, I will not get lost and together we will, at last, find our way home.