Between the beginning and the end

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life is many things. No description explains it. People make plans. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don't. What you eventually end up with is the result of what went on between the beginning and the end of your journey. God's encouragement is "I will instruct you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8)

When you're in high school, you often vote for the person most likely to succeed. You may marry your high school sweetheart. You choose a college, vocation or trade and make many plans. Most people look forward to some kind of a future. You idealize, meet a need or try to find fulfillment in some capacity. During your latter years you might look back and see what happened. You may even write your life's story. That's a worthy goal because it can tell you a lot about yourself. How one thing led to another and why you attained or failed to achieve what you attempted. You can ask where God fit into that picture. You'll usually find it was God who was leading you.

When particular happenings occurred that you did not plan on or that were unkind, you wondered why. Looking back into your story, you can see that they took place for a reason. One you were unable to fathom at the time. It's like the poem "Footprints in the Sand" said: "Those were the times when God was carrying you."

Life is a great teacher. When you begin a trip you get a map. You pack your suitcase. You hop in the car or head to the airport. You have the beginning taken care of. Your mind and your prayers have prepared you for the destination. "I'll relax," you say. "All is well."

It's the time between leaving and arriving that's the journey -- that's life. What goes on in the car? Whom did you meet? What phone calls did you receive? What happened en route that made a change in your life? Many occurrences alter us without our realizing it at the time. What an awesome, exciting and adventurous insight that is. Everything makes a difference.

When you marry, you assume you'll have a partner for life -- someone with whom you can share everything. It's all a wonderful dream. You envision children, perhaps, and picture ball games and dance recitals. You might visualize your retirement years. You see yourself in a boat somewhere fishing. Maybe you'll want a second or third career.

It all seems so easy. You begin, plan your route and follow all the right roads and traffic signs. Then, somehow, your life failed to go as you expected. All kinds of ambiguous and unscheduled events occurred. People changed. Your destination is not as you thought. You've taken a different path and come out somewhere else. I talked with someone living in a nursing home, recently. He said, "I never thought I would end up like this." Yet he could still recognize and verbalize that many others were worse off than he. That realization alone spoke mountains concerning what was inside, his enormous capacity for compassion.

Our beginnings speak of dreams and visions and possibilities. We try to make them realities as we progress toward their fruition. It's the part in between where we learn, love, grow and accomplish. What happens along the way determines the outcome of the trip.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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