The station's only an illusion

Saturday, December 4, 2004

"I can't wait until I graduate from college."

"My life will be wonderful when I get married."

"I'll be in heaven if we can buy that house overlooking the river."

"If I write an impressive resume I'll hopefully land that coveted job."

Everyone believes he'll eventually find the decisive factor that will bring him happiness, a point at which he believes he has arrived. I, too, bought into that mindset until I found there's no such thing as "having arrived."

Everyone knows one thing follows another in life. People's dreams can materialize if circumstances are favorable to their fruition. Although plans usually fail to unfold as one anticipates, he still continues to pursue the "carrot" he sees attractively dangling in front of him. And he keeps running toward it believing it will satisfy him. He keeps journeying towards the station. He keeps saying: "Next year I'll make colonel in the Army, my children will be grown and gone from the nest," or, "I'll soon possess a nest egg and won't need to work anymore. I can retire and travel."

He thinks he'll truly be happy because he's at home -- at a place where he can be free to do as he chooses without all the present interruptions of life. He is finally where he wants to be -- at his preferred destination in life. But too often he fails to notice the scenery, love the people and smell the air along the way.

After looking back over the woven tapestry of my life, I saw threads where I strove to attain what I believed would contribute most toward my happiness. I unrelentingly set new goals in education, family and helping others within my time allowance and energy level. I felt God wanted to grant me gifts that would contribute to my happiness, because scripture promised "Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

As I thought about that passage, the words "Delight yourself in the Lord" leapt out at me. And I realized while traveling toward my objectives I must put God first in everything I did, before expecting my desires to be fulfilled. I learned to prioritize what I thought would add the most value to my time on earth. And I began to ask, "How can I best serve God?" I questioned where my time, money and talents could best be used to meet my intended purpose.

Then I was jolted by the realization I would never arrive at my coveted destination here on earth, although I could enjoy occasional stops along the way. For I finally realized the joy of life was in the trip -- the actual doing. Life is constant learning and constant conversion.

One never ceases traveling toward some end. There is simply something within human nature that compels us onward. Whether I anticipate buying a new car, visiting loved ones or straining toward another goal, my life never stops moving. Like a mountain stream it keeps flowing; bounding over rocks and boulders, around bends, gurgling upward and spiraling downward, occasionally becoming murky and sometimes clear -- but it keeps moving on -- toward the station.

People no sooner finish one goal than they undertake another project. One moves to a different location, matures from a child to a parent, and then from a parent to a grandparent -- and so on. I wondered when one finally accomplishes his calling -- his purpose. The answer at which I arrived was that one's final destination is with God. But while residing on earth the joy of life must be found in the journey because arriving at the station is only an illusion.

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Girardeau.

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