There are times when life feels like floating along a great big meandering river: it takes an enormous amount of time to negotiate a long curve and then, after what seems like an age, you find yourself back in almost exactly the same place that you were before.
Arriving back in a place that you thought you’d left far behind you can be deeply disappointing and frustrating. Becoming ill again after a time of feeling better, revisiting a family or relationship issue, facing the same old temptation or just realising that once again you can hear God saying the same thing to you that he’s said over and over again in the past; all these can leave you ready to give up or to yell at the Lord “but we’ve been here before!”
“All that effort and I’ve travelled no distance at all”.
It amused me this morning to read that in rivers, meanders are a feature of maturity. Young rivers cut in a straight line to begin with, and only as they get more mature (and more powerful) do they start to wander about revisiting old ground and seem to make only very slow progress forwards.
I wonder if life-meanders are more likely to be a feature for us too as we become more mature in faith? When I first became a Christian, so much seemed to be easy and obvious, life and discipleship was much more of a straight line. It felt as though I was quick to learn things and deal with things. As time as gone on I’ve realised that there are deeper things, ground-in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that seem to need a different treatment. Revisiting the same issues and challenges, each time armed with a little more experience and grace seems to be a part of that process.
If you understand this experience of having travelled the long bend of the river and found yourself, unexpectedly, back where you started, this is God’s word for you today:
It’s not about the distance travelled, it’s about who you’ve become while we travelled it together.
Because even if today you’re arriving back in the same old place, you are not the same old you.
On the journey to get here you will have changed, grown and learned. You don’t actually have to respond in the same way you did before. You probably won’t.
And while you are back in almost the same place, this time you’re approaching it from a different direction and with grace and experience in your backpack.
So don’t get frustrated and lose heart my friends, when you find yourself back in old places, don’t believe the lie that you’ve travelled nowhere. Instead, remember that journey, and all the things that God taught you while you were travelling and then look down at the new you that Jesus has helped you to become on the way.