Written by Steph Van Rossen
There are many questions a four year old asks which can be… difficult to answer.
These aren’t always the questions we think they are going to be. Often, in my experience, they are questions asking me to unpack or define the meanings of words I use everyday. Oftentimes these words or phrases are attached to meanings and metaphors beyond the scope of my four year old. Sometimes also, surprisingly, of me. I’m reminded of a favourite phrase of an old colleague, part of our teaching and learning experience is “to make the implicit, explicit.” Or in this case – to give a concrete definition to a four year old. It might be unpacking how Ursula didn’t really want to help Ariel and explaining her (evil) underlying motivations¹ OR answering “what does destination mean?” Does it surprise you that I’m more comfortable answering the former?
What does destination mean?
Don’t worry, I answered her question and gave her several relevant and concrete answers. As I did the next five times she asked me the exact. same. question. For you, dear reader, I have a different question –
What is with our fixation on destination?
Why are we so concerned and preoccupied with “destination”? From a very young age we pose the question, what do you want to be when you grow up?
It may begin with wanting a cute or nice answer, but it quickly turns into a fixation of destination, of where we will end up, what we will do and what is my specific purpose? Before we know it, the innocent questions quickly evolve into what job / occupation / destination should I choose as a seventeen year old and hold FOREVER?
You might be wondering, where did my four year old hear this word “destination”? Peppa Pig² of course. After several mishaps on their camping holiday, finally their satnav declares, “you have reached your destination.”
And queue rejoice.
I too rejoice when I hear these words from my satnav (uh hum, Google Maps) or I know it isn’t far away. But the joy I feel at this point, often isn’t expressed earlier in the journey. Many times it is frustration, especially when I’m told too late to enter the turning lane of an unfamiliar route. Of course, under normal circumstances the ‘satnav’ likely gave me plenty of notice. But in peak hour? Not so much. I might even choose to turn left instead of right, thinking I know better and very soon the map will catch up and redirect or adjust the route accordingly.
Yes, I plug in the destination and I end up there eventually, but the path is not always the same. I am often surprised by the route my satnav takes me on, taking in sights I would not have caught a glimpse of otherwise. We may anticipate a straight forward journey, of a very specific duration, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes we have a great run, but sometimes it is chaotic and frustrating. Even in our ‘known,’ when we choose the destination, there are plenty of unknowns along the way.
Sometimes we are so stuck on trying to decipher the big questions, what is my purpose? What is the right path? That we don’t actually move. Or go anywhere.
But if we were moving we’d find we can easily be redirected. As someone wise once told me, it is easier to turn a moving vessel than one still on the shore.
It does require us to be listening, attuned and (gasp!) obedient.
The call to obedience is cropping up for me a lot lately. Am I being obedient to what God has already asked of me? Are we listening, attuned and obedient to the purpose and path God calls us to? Or are we so focused on our “destination” we forget it has already been given to us?
We’ve been asked to love God above all else, to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31) and to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-21). This is the path and purpose we have been given.
If you are unsure what or where your next step is or are so overwhelmed by choices you’ve forgotten to move, please remember –
It is easier to turn a moving vessel than one still on the shore. Be obedient to the purpose we’ve already been given, listening and attuned to being redirected.
As I was driving home recently, defiant as my satnav told me to choose the lane and subsequent turn with the longest line, a song reminded me of a glorious and comforting truth. No one Lord, but you.³ As I sang along, far louder than is necessary (but I’m only allowed to do this when I’m driving solo) I was reminded again of the power of that phrase. No one Lord, but you. I’ve gotten to this point in my life by trusting God for direction, by relinquishing control. By also making choices filled with uncertainty, knowing that God can redirect me and also use my mistakes to bring Glory to His Kingdom. That if I listen, if I attune myself, if I’m obedient – God can build so much from that regardless of my destination (or occupation or whatever). Love God, love others and the rest will work out. Retrospect is a beautiful gift and often it is only in looking back we are able to see the fullness of the map and how God’s hand has been upon the journey.
So can I encourage you to start? To choose a path, choosing to listen, to be attuned to God’s voice and to be obedient as you hear it? Be open to being redirected, but trust that God is able to bless and use you regardless of where you end up.
If you would like some clarity on this, get into the New Testament. Also, The Purpose Driven Life⁴ is a classic for a reason. Look it up to see how widely read and received it has been. Find someone else or a group to read it with. Welcome to Adulting⁵ also has some helpful advice on similar (and other!) topics.
Take a step.
I hope you find your destination, but more importantly, that you have a worthwhile journey. (And don’t yell too much at your satnav.)
Till then, go well,
¹ The Little Mermaid (1989) Walt Disney Pictures
[Yes, let’s talk about Ursula another time. How great her song is. How it is difficult for young viewers to grapple with the motivation of her actions and why she is SO FUN to role play as!]
² Peppa Goes Camping (2010), Ladybird Books, London, England.
Based on the TV series Peppa Pig (2003) by Neville Astley and Mark Baker.
³ No one But You (2019) by Scott Ligertwood, Aodhan King & Brooke Ligertwood
⁴ Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life (US: Zondervan, 2002).
⁵ Jonathan Pokluda, Welcome to Adulting (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2018).