January 10, 2010

The Journey Begins

We are at the start of a new year and a new decade. Like me, you may have made resolutions for the direction of your journey this year. It’s easy to make a resolution, but if I don’t plan how to follow through and get there, it is easy to get lost. Over this next year, I’m inviting you to join me in a journey of discovery or re-discovery of Biblical women and men who can mentor us, even in our very different world, if we let them. Between now and mid February we’ll explore what Hagar can teach us about journeys and planning.

Hagar was the Egyptian slave maid of Sarah. She was one of the pieces of ‘property’ gained by Abraham in Egypt when he allowed Pharaoh to take his wife into the royal harem. A few years later, back in Canaan, Sarah decides she must use Hagar as a surrogate mother to give Abraham a child. However, when Hagar conceives, Sarah becomes jealous. She treats Hagar cruelly and the maid runs away.

Hagar is one model of someone who was disenfranchised from her people, as a slave; hated by her mistress, for her fertility; angry at God for allowing her exile. She did not plan prudently, but we will see over the next few weeks that God did not abandon her and doesn’t abandon us, no matter how poorly we plan.

This week we’ll look at the basic steps to take when planning a journey of any kind. Today we’ll see that whether it’s a trip to the grocery, a cruise, determining what job to take, or a new direction for your life, the steps are the same. All are journeys and all require some planning. Although you might not think through the process for something as simple as a trip to the grocery, you do review the steps in your mind.

First we have to decide where we are going—grocery, Alaska, new career, diet, etc.

Then we have to map our route to get to the goal—lists of what we need and streets to get to the store, airplanes and ships or driving to Alaska, schooling and resumes to get a new career, buying healthy foods and joining a gym to help our diet..

This means we must get advice from friends and experts—which store has the best sales, what should we see in Alaska, how to get the best preparation for a new job, is a trainer needed for weight loss…?

We set out on the journey and see results—buying the food needed, taking off for an Alaskan vacation, sending resumes, or starting our diet.

After we’ve been on the journey for a time, we need to re-evaluate our goal. This often happens naturally. We see something else on sale at the store or hear of a unique side trip on the vacation. Maybe a job offer comes from an unexpected source or we miss a week of exercise and diet because of visitors.

Every so often, however, we should stop and really look at our journey. Is the store we habitually shop at really the best for our needs? Would we take another Alaskan tour? Is our career choice or employer fulfilling our needs? Should the diet be adjusted in some way?

The same is true in our spiritual journey. We are all spiritual beings, by whatever name we call God. Each of us in on a unique journey with God and it follows the same steps:
Determining where we are going—finding a deeper relationship, for instance.
Getting advice from friends, the Bible, books, church, etc.
Setting out is something we’ve been doing since birth, but sometimes the journey is more intentional than others.
Evaluate where we are on the journey—do I feel closer or farther from God, do I need to change my habits or find a mentor?

Have you ever broken your life down into stepping stones and looked at the path you have taken? I would encourage you to take time to do so as we set out on this journey with Hagar. Break your life into 3, 5, or even 10 year sections and reflect on what was important to you in each of those times. Think about family, spiritual (not necessarily church related), environment (home, school, friends), and major life changing events for each of the steps of your life.

For me, a major stepping stone happened in 2000. I started down a new pathway that has led me to new friends and new adventures. In many ways it feels like yesterday, but it has been a decade. I didn’t really anticipate that my first book, It is I, Joseph, would lead to 6 other books, a blog, a website, speaking engagements, and several studies based on the books. Rather like Hagar in the Old Testament I jumped in without really knowing what I was doing or what I was getting into.

Next week we will start walking with Hagar and see what new directions it will take us in our journey together this year. See you here.

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