The hero’s journey in a nutshell: There’s an initial crime (which we all inevitably commit), which ejects the hero from his homebound complacency and propels him upon his wanderings, the yearning for redemption, the untiring campaign to 'get home,’ meaning back to God’s grace, back to himself.
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Are we all on a journey home?
On a mission to find God and ourselves?
Is this what the post-college decade is all about?
Is life during the twenty-something years like a yellow brick road twisting and turning, but ultimately leading us home?
There are two lessons God is teaching me over and over in my journey back to Him. The first lesson, is to give back my idols (anything I want more than I want God), and the second, is to stop manipulating myself to get what I want.
These two lessons tie very closely together, let's start with idols.
Idols are anything we want more than God himself. Some common twenty-something idols, all of which I've been guilty of harboring, are marriage and romantic love, success and significance, material possessions, and popularity. When we've got an idol, it creates a natural separation between us and God. When we put something in the middle of our relationship with God, it makes it exetremely difficult to find God and come home to ourselves.
How do you know you have an idol?...when it breaks your heart.
If we hold on to our idols long enough, they break our hearts. Heartbreak occurs when we place our hope in something or someone other than God. It's God's gracious way of taking back the hope we placed outside of Him. He does this because hope placed outside of God does not save us, it enslaves us.
How many times have you caught yourself trying to earn love and approval? Success and significance? A relationship? If you're like me, too many.
It's not that marriage or success or approval are bad. It's that if we want those things more than we want God and His will for our lives, we're setting ourselves up for pain and disappointment. Inevitably, there will be times when that dream job, or marriage, or person, let us down. It's crucial our identity and hope is rooted firmly in God, so that when we are disappointed it doesn't shake our faith.
Manipulation is an interesting twenty-something lesson because from an early age we're taught to get the test scores that get us into the college we want attend, and then to say the right thing in the interview to land the job we want, and that's not bad advice. But oftentimes, God will take us through a time in our lives when we can't say or do the right thing to get what we want, and the only option we're left with is to trust Him with our lives.
Most of the things we want are good things: careers, colleges, relationships, and communities; but many times God wants these things to take different forms than what we planned, and then other times we're praying for snakes. Sometimes, we're praying for things that will ruin us.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
I've used God like a vending machine: press the right button, pray the right prayer, and pull out a blessing. Then when things don't work out no matter how well played, planned, prayed, or executed I learned to trust Him to work all things together for my good (Romans 8:28).
If you’re on a journey, or in a desperate place before God, you’re in good company. When all we can see is the wind, the storm, and the hurt, we just might be closer to home than we think. Pain is the most reliable roadmap to where God is working in our lives. If you want to know where to find God, ask yourself where it hurts.
God used my own plans to undo me and teach me to trust Him when it hurts, when it costs me something, and when what God has for me is not what I would have chosen for myself.
It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming. But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing. - 2 Corinthians 5: 7-9 MSG
As we search for home, whether that’s a physical place or a place within ourselves, let’s remember to thank God for the journey and for the hope that carries us home.
Sometime in your life you will go on a journey.
It will be the longest journey you have ever taken.
It is the journey to find yourself. - Katherine Sharp
God said, "My presence will go with you. I'll see the journey to the end." - Exodus 32:14 MSG