faith fridays: you sure you want to arrive?

“The point of the journey is not to arrive.” — Rush

“Are you sure you want to arrive?!” I know this seems like an odd question, but since it’s come at me several times recently, I decided I’m probably not supposed to ignore it.

It came to me first in thoughts that translated into a newspaper column, which I’ll share early next week when it’s published. The gist of said column is this: we’re always starting over. We’re never truly “arrived.”

This may seem a negative approach, a “glass half empty” sort of thought. But stick with me here.

Today, I attended an “FM Power Lunch” gathering, a monthly event for local Christian business professionals. I try to make these each month and I rarely leave disappointed. This month’s pastor presentation, which takes up the second half of the program, was about “the power of power,” and how easily we can fall from grace when we reach our destination, when we’ve “arrived.”

Innately we desire arrival. We are always seeking to go somewhere. We are all on a great journey, after all. Our life on earth is filled with goal-setting, adventure, and hopefully some sort of arrival, even if short-lived in this life. But as Pastor Matthew illustrated in his talk, using various kings of the Old Testament as examples, arrival can be dangerous to our souls.

“We can get complacent in our success,” he said. “Our hearts can begin to change. The things we once yearned for can threaten to destroy us.”

Sound familiar? Think of something you wanted really badly, something you strove mightily to attain, and when you finally got that desired thing, or position, or relationship, or…whatever it might have been…you began to lose sight of what, or Who, helped you attain it.

Pastor Matthew talked of long-ago kings who, once their rule was established, abandoned their faith. They became too comfy — they no longer needed it.

Is having arrived a blessing or a curse? Do we really want to arrive if it’s only going to make things worse?

I think it’s tricky, and something of which we ought to be aware. Success isn’t bad in and of itself, but it can easily lead to pride if we don’t stay close to God and His plan for us. As we all know, pride can cause a slow, steady erosion. Maybe even a fast one.

Again using the old kings as an example, Pastor Matthew came up with several red flags — things we should watch for that could, if left unchecked, lead us to ruin on our way to success:

1) Using faith as expedience toward becoming successful. If we do this, our base will be thin and our faith no longer necessary once we’ve reached the top.

2) Listening to the counsel of unsavory advisers. It’s easy to veer off course if we rely too heavily on the wrong sources to help us see our path clearly. “Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people,” Pastor Matthew warned. It’s too easy to lose sight of the important things when we can’t see our own flaws.

3) Seeking legitimacy through inappropriate alliances. We need to be discerning in what we reveal and to whom. Not doing so could compromise our goals.

4) Ignoring opportunities to build upon what God has already done in our lives. It’s so easy to forget who brought us to where we are, to forget each blessed step along the way.

5) Believing a tenure is about us and not the Lord and His legacy. It’s easy to do in this culture of “it’s all about me,” but dangerous if you’re aiming for the ultimate destination.

So these are some things to watch for, five reasons those who have arrived have gotten there only to fall a short time later. We see it all the time on TV, and we see it in our own lives and relationships around us as well.

But I love how Pastor Matthew ended his talk. One of the best combatants to pride, he said, is to “remain teachable.” Only those who are lifelong learners are capable of being servant leaders. The ability to accept this mindset of lifelong learning leads to humility. And since humility is the opposite of pride, living a life filled with it will lead to true success.

This speaks to me, particularly as I look at some of my “failings.” When examined in this light, I realize that they may not have been failings after all. They may have been the very thing I’ve needed to avoid arriving prematurely so that I might arrive when it counts the most.

And this, my reader friends, should be of encouragement to you. It says to me that there is hope amidst suffering.

Hang on. Your time has not yet come, perhaps, but that’s okay, because it will come!

Q4U: Have you ever sought a destination and found, upon reaching it, that it wasn’t exactly what you’d expected?