Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Reaching a Desired Goal is a Bad Thing

For the past eleven weeks, I have hiked upwards through a springtime blizzard of digital wood pulp and cyber ink to reach my own North Pole. Today, I planted firm feet on the top of the world and stabbed my flag in frozen tundra as if to say I made it!.

Were my life a Hollywood creation, I would then raise both hands above my head and grin through the sweaty exhaustion. I would feel the victory coursing through my veins as people cheered my accomplishment.

But, this is definitely not Hollywood. Nobody would find my accomplishment worthy of cheers. And most importantly, I don't feel any sense victory making my heart thump faster.

Upon reaching my North, I feel loss, sadness. After achieving one's goal, there's nowhere else to go but down...well, that's what one poet said anyway. In his early poem "90 North," a disillusioned Randall Jarrell said "Turn as I please, my step is to the south."

This morning, gathered around the nearly-immovable table, my ladies' Bible study met for one last hour before summer break. There was no discussion, no interpretation--just the five of us reading aloud the book of Revelation's twenty-two chapters, feasting on the Word and being blessed by its reading.

All wiser than me by at least thirty years, these ladies are my spiritual think-tank. Several people have come and gone in our group throughout the years, but the core has remained the same--open to the Spirit's revelations, open to the continued mystery of God's Word.

Early this spring when our group finished the last study of ten in a series about the Old Testament kings and prophets, I expected to feel jubilant. Look! We reached a goal five years in the making!

Much like today, all I felt was a sense that I was a tall glass not even full enough to argue whether it was half full or half empty. What had happened to the gallons of living water I poured in? Did they just evaporate? Had I sprung a leak? Or was I really so helpless that I used that much volume so quickly?

In the cold days of January, I fought this feeling of my goal being worthless. Now, I understand it better.

As one who longs for more of Him, I can't possibly be excited at completing a Bible study. Completion marks an end. An end to learning about the one who is my heart song--now that's depressing.

No matter how many Bible studies I complete, no matter how much I learn of God the Father or how much I come to love my Jesus through His Word, it will never be enough.

It's not that I'm leaking or using up what He gives me so that His word hid in my heart can't sustain me when calamity hits. It's that the glass keeps growing taller, wider to accept more of His kingdom that He is willing to reveal.

This past Monday, my mother phoned to ask if I wanted to do a study with just her over the summer.

With no thought to my other commitments, all I could think and say was Yes.

Unlike what the poet Jarrell believed, achieving one's ultimate North isn't possible here on earth. As a result, just because I reach a major goal on my path to becoming like Christ doesn't mean that everything from that point is South, is downhill. just means that I need to look around for where the straight and narrow path is headed, because when I find it, my feet will be pointing North again.


  1. This is really an honest to goodness post that touched my heart.

    Thank you for sharing so beautifully...

    God is eternal, unfathomable, unsearchable... He only graces us by revealing to our finite minds what we could grasp of Him... but there never is a finish line to knowing Him.

    I think I understand a bit of what you are saying.

    Each time I reach the end of a study, or a book... there is a longing for something deeper, something more.

    Going North is reaching South... in a manner of speaking...

    May this motivate us to keep longing, to keep hungering... to keep thirsting. There is an inexhaustible river of life that we are invited to drink from.


  2. I can relate. The Bible is addictive in the best of ways.