I got kicked off the New Jersey turnpike once for being too fat.
Let me rephrase that:
My father in law and I got kicked off the New Jersey turnpike for having a moving van that was slightly over the legal weight limit of what the road could structurally support.
What’s slightly overweight mean?
In this case, 4,000 pounds.
There was two tons worth of stuff too much in our 24 foot Penske moving truck. I thought briefly about whether we could jettison some of our heavier items like they do in the movies. I imagine myself opening the back of the truck while barreling down the highway at 70MPH and yelling at my father-in law:
“We’re too heavy; we’re not going to clear the New Jersey border. We’ve got to lose some weight. The china has to go. There are 12 place settings. We’re not fancy enough to have that much china. And fiesta ware? That stuff is made of lead. You could kill a man with a fiesta ware plate. So heavy. Throw that out the back too.”
But because I love my wife and promised her I’d never throw her china out of the back of a rented vehicle on a federal interstate, I wasn’t able to lighten our load. So instead, we were forced to get off the turnpike. The weird thing is that the NJ turnpike goes through backyards and small little neighborhoods. As soon as we got off we were completely lost. Since this was before GPS devices, way back in 2004, I had to take the support vehicle back to a rest stop and buy a map while my father-in law waited awkwardly in some neighborhood cul-de-sac with our panting yellow beast of a moving truck.
All in all, that day turned out to be a geography lesson I would have preferred to miss but for some reason that’s a subject I can’t seem to escape right now.
Getting lost, not knowing where you’re supposed to be, fumbling with maps both physical and metaphorical, these are all things I find myself constantly doing right now.
The idea of “place” has been something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately. I’ve got this overwhelming feeling that God wants me somewhere else. Whether that’s a product of immaturity or selfishness, there’s a part of me that loves to focus on there instead of here. I want to pray for chances to witness to far off people in far off places. It’s always sexier to think your mission in life is going to involve some sort of adventure with a rope ladder over a ranging river full of piranha as you carry a vaccine and the hope of the gospel to a lost tribe of people that will eventually give you a wicked cool village nickname (mine would be Rik-Rok) and perhaps your own machete. It’s a lot less fun to think that maybe you’re already in a mission field and the annoying guy who you pass TPS reports to, the guy who sits near you in a sea of cubicles, the sniffler, yeah that guy, he needs to know about the love of God.
I get caught up in that attitude and when I do, I eventually start peppering God with geography questions. Have you ever done that? Have you ever said to God:
Where do you want me?
This doesn’t feel like where I’m supposed to be God, can you please give me a sign?
Can you tell me where you want me to go?
Is this job, is this relationship, is this church, is this city where you want me to be?
Do you want me to move cities? States? Countries? Continents?
I fire off thousands of questions that center around the longitude and latitude of my life at God. And do you know how God answers me when I ask Him those kinds of questions? Do you know how I promise He will answer you if you ask Him those kinds of questions? Do you know the first answer God always gives when we say, “God where do you want me to go?”
“In my presence.”
We won’t get a city name first or a country or a street address. God isn’t Google Maps. Punch in as many prayers as you want, but more than anything else, God is going to say the same thing to you as He says to me,
“In my presence, that is where I want you to go. Better is one day in my courts than a thousand elsewhere. I’ve got other destinations planned for you, far off places and close to home addresses that you can’t even imagine, but every destination, every adventure begins with the same starting location, in my presence.”
Stop trying to force a map on God. He might give you laser specific directions for your life and your journey and your next steps. But first, long before He does that, even after He does that, He’s going to remind you of the one place He wants you to go most of all,
“In my presence.”