Global Positioning

A version of this article appears on letslivealive.com

A young boy clinged to his father’s grasp while a narrow path spread itself before them. Surveying the surrounding area, he soon caught a glimpse of an intersection some distance ahead–an intersection home to diverse groups of people, innumerable avenues, and unending movement. Intrigued, he withdrew from his father, chased curiosity, and freely ran ahead. Immense varieties of options presented themselves before him, so he stepped a few strides down each, looking for something, an adventure, even though he wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Excitedly he called back, “Which way should I go? Who should I meet? What should I do?” The father affirmed him, smiled, and softly replied, “I’ll show you the way, and we’ll walk down it together. Just wait one moment for me to catch up.”

This perspective is similar to my present… or at least this is one of the ways I’ve come to articulate it. Personal movement is a quality I value highly, and I’ll willingly admit to my frequent lack of contentment with where I’m at. I’m well aware that attribute alone can be a stumbling block for a dreamer, the downfall of an over-achiever, a lingering burden for a perfectionist. But regardless, I hold fast to the stance that daily striving towards creating meaningful experiences that build upon and interweave faith, friendship, family, work, and culture is how we’re designed to live. The questions I often wrestle with are not ‘what to do’ or even ‘how to do it,’ but “What’s the bigger picture?,” “Why am I positioned where I am?,” “Why am I not where I think I should be?,” or “What’s right in front of me that I just can’t see?”

Every two or three years fissures seem to develop within all my constants, spiraling life down new avenues with enhanced goals, more mature relationships, more meaningful jobs, and greater vision for the future. Some are expected, others aren’t. Parts need to be left behind. Even people need to be left behind. But much in the same way God allowed the older generation in Exodus to pass away in the desert, I believe He’s faithfully refined my character through removal and addition in each of these cycles. That’s often difficult and equally frustrating, but it’s growth. And, in some ways, many ways, I would consider myself currently rotating into yet another one of these phases seeking clarity for why and what’s next.

A thought on biblical positioning…

An observation I’ve put a lot of thought into recently is that the coordinates God planned for the Old Testament “promised land” were basically centered on the intersection of most trade and travel routes in the ancient world. At the apex of the biblical Jewish story, when God was using Israel to brand His mark on civilization, the greatest cities of learning, business, and culture occupied the southwest of Canaan in North Africa and the northeast in the region that Assyria, Babylon, and Persia would develop. Adjacent to those, two oceans existed: one of water, one of sand. And, until Greece and Rome transformed navigation and sea-faring transportation (at which point Israel had mostly lost influence on geopolitical structure), these “oceans” were nearly uncrossable. That narrow sliver between kingdoms where trade, traffic, and communication funneled in and out of was the spot God sovereignly predetermined for His followers to reside.

Ok, so why is this important? I think it was God’s intent that His presence, through His people, be inescapable to literally everyone around them. Not necessarily that it would be sought out, but that neighbors and foreigners would have no choice but to steadily observe the difference in Israel’s lifestyle solely from their positioning alone. Much in the same way, I think God uses this motive to shape our experiences, our setting, our happiness, our frustrations, our successes, and our failures in the present. And, as we often find ourselves asking why God has us positioned us where He has, whether by circumstance, emotion, setting, etc., it seems Israel was completely oblivious too. Only in retrospect are we able to find clarity and see how lines in one chapter connect to the next.

Two months ago, I stood on the sidelines of my neighborhood basketball court talking about Jesus with a 13-year old Jehovah’s Witness who initially sought me out for advice on his jumpshot. A month later I sat in a transparent conference room discussing the global digital landscape at the HQ of today’s most successful company. The scale or range of my experiences and their outcomes varies immensely, but I think there is reason to be confident that God is taking control and has spoken these moments into my story for predetermined purposes.

In a recent memoir, Don Miller writes, “If I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing before time and wrote you and me specifically into a story, and He put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say ‘(Just) enjoy where I’ve placed you in my story.’” It’s a marathon effort, but I’m continually learning to trust that a steady hand is kept on my positioning. And, in contrast, I’m also becoming more acutely aware of my own faultiness when I take the wheel. For the most part, it seems wisest just to be patient, release that control, and experience whatever adventure and unforeseen beauty is in the ride.