The Christmas of 2011 I began Stephen King’s Dark Tower series: eight books of pretty epic length. King claims the series as his version of Lord of the Rings. It has been a long road not without periods of putting the books down: two youth ministry summers and a baby get in the way of these sorts of things.
But Tuesday I finished it.
There are few feelings I enjoy more than finishing a book, but this one left me a bit more emotional. This was a group of characters I had traveled with through many worlds over the last year and a half. On the next to the last book I had decided I was done and just wanted it to be over. But as the last book began to wrap up, I realized I did not want it to end.
We had been through too much, and I was going to miss the journey.
But the book had a refreshing end which helped me put this into perspective. The ending of the book is a bit anti-climactic. You think there should be more to the story. Not everything is tied into a neat little bow. You have more questions than answers. And here is what King says to those left wanting more:
You are the grim, goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination no matter how many times it has been proven to you…I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not just munch your way through the pages to the ending.
The journey is what makes it meaningful, not the end. I found this to be a beautiful statement and it touched something in my soul. It made me realize why we love long epic stories. Why we shell out so much money on sequels. Why we continue to explore space and the depths of the ocean.
We love the journey. We don’t want the journey to end. There is something in the human spirit that wants to keep going, growing, living and pursuing – no matter how difficult the previous journeys have been. Epics like the Dark Tower or Lord of the Rings play on this well.
But in our lives, we too often find ourselves seeking the end. We want to “arrive” as humans. We want to get to a place of comfort. We carry the statement, “If I could just…” always in front of us.
I have been feeling this in my own life the past week. Although they have been relatively small things, I have had a few experiences and opportunities to do some new and challenging things. They were good opportunities, but I felt a very strong resistance when the opportunity arose.
I didn’t want to go forward. I didn’t want to move ahead. I didn’t want to try something new or outside of my comfort zone. After a long process of changing jobs, cities, residences, and schools, I finally have a rhythm. I finally feel at home. Because of this, there is now this urge to maintain this sense of comfort.
The inner voice is maddening.
You are finally settled, why do something new?
There will be other opportunities which might feel more comfortable – stick with what you know.
That is a lot of effort, is it really worth it?
But when I stop and silence the voices for a while, there is a much more gentle whisper.
This is right. Go with this. You only are resisting because it is uncomfortable.
This is the call to continue the journey, to never get to a place where we have “arrived.”
I think this is the picture painted in Ps 23. A shepherd’s job is to lead her sheep on a journey. In a desert climate, they keep the sheep moving in order to find acceptable food, shelter, and water. There were constant dangers of jagged rocks, predatory animals, flash floods, and scarce greens.
The shepherd painted here leads the flock on sure and straight paths, to lush pastures to eat, protects them from straying or being attacked, and takes them to “still” waters, with no danger of floods.
But it is a journey. They are constantly on the move. In order to find the life-giving paths, pools, and pastures they have to keep moving. The sheep have to keep following to live.
If we want to keep finding life, we can never arrive. We have to ignore the inner voices that want to keep us comfortable. We have to learn to follow and move, even when staying put might seem to make more sense.
Easter is not the ending, it is the beginning.
When we push through the temptation to be comfortable and to arrive, we find life is found in the journey, not in the results.
So this week I am accepting new opportunities, and starting the Lord of the Rings. I hope you will too.