“Things never happen the same way twice.”
For readers of C.S. Lewis’ fantasy books, specifically Prince Caspian, these words may sound familiar. Young Lucy heard them spoken by the great lion, Aslan, in response to her frustration at the present state of things in Narnia. She had assumed that Aslan would have come through by now to save the land from the evil White Witch, just like he did in the previous adventure. She was wrong.
These words of Aslan came to mind not long ago when I began another summer of assisting a camp in northern Wisconsin. I helped oversee a handful of volunteers, mostly teens, who came in with memories of past summers and high expectations for another exciting experience, just like the one before. It wasn’t long, however, before a touch of disappointment set in when they realized that things were going to be different. New people, new mindsets, new circumstances.
Like Lucy and the volunteers, we have all experienced these feelings. Disappointment with the present. A longing for the past. Fear of letting go of yesterday and embracing change. Despite all reason, we sometimes lose sight of the adventure of new roads ahead, blinded by what once was.
Long ago, the second generation of Israelites faced a new road as they sought to enter the Promised Land. God made this clear through the mouth of his courageous and obedient servant Joshua, who spoke the following words before they were to cross the Jordan: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God... move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, for you have never been this way before” (Joshua 3:3-4, italics mine).
Like the Israelites, we who live by faith are traveling down a way that we have never traveled before. Whether a teacher, carpenter, stay-at-home mom, business owner, professional, musician, ministry leader, or student, the season is new, and will be filled with new experiences, relationships, circumstances, challenges, growth, and opportunities. Whether in a different setting or the same one as the past forty years, whether fifteen or eighty years old, an untrodden road lies before us.
Of course this new road isn’t explored by everyone. Excluded are those who will continue to live life as they always have, doing the same things that produce the same results despite a desire for something more, unyielding to the fact that there is a better way. Those who will sit on the couch waiting for life to come to them will not reap. The new road is open to those seeking growth and desiring to make a difference—counting the cost to obtain them. Yet there is a catch to this: the unknown that lies ahead. Trusting God for provision and direction takes courage.
You may be asking the question, “Are all new roads better roads?” Some roads are filled with great pain, and to call them ‘better’ seems inappropriate. Nonetheless, if that painful road has produced growth in its traveler and taken him or her into a deeper relationship with God and others, then the journey was not void of meaning and purpose.
The rest of Joshua 3 reveals more wisdom that shines light on our journey: Consecrate yourself. Step into the water. Know that you’ll be standing on solid ground.
Though Lucy’s expectations were dashed, the story later reveals that they were replaced by an equally, if not more, wonderful reality. Similarly, the young camp volunteers adjusted well to the changes and made it a great summer. Near the end, one of the girls made a comment that brought a smile to my face: “I think this was the best summer yet!” She was right on target.
So as we step into this new season, whatever it may be, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and walk boldly in his footsteps, holding loosely to our expectations while nurturing anticipation for what lies ahead. Let us deal with anything that may be hindering our progress, step out and take chances, enjoy the blessings he has given us, and be found faithful with the responsibilities we’ve been entrusted with. And in all this, may we face and endure the trials that are sure to come to us, and find peace in knowing that we are, and will be, standing on solid ground when standing under the shadow of his wings.
Thankfully, some things never change. Thankfully, most things do. The best is always yet to come.
“Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” for it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 7:10