Between the Arrows
On the Camino de Santiago there is a system for helping pilgrims to stay on the right path. Every kilometer or so (and sometimes more often) there are bright yellow arrows to let you know you are headed in the right direction. The closer you get to Santiago, these arrows are accompanied by the number of kilometers remaining on the Camino. Mostly the arrows are clearly visible, point in obvious directions, and occur with regular frequency. Occasionally they are less visible, may even point in two directions at once, and may be several kilometers apart. If you have walked for a long time without seeing an arrow, it is usually time to stop and check to see if you are on the right path and have not missed an arrow along the way. When this happens it can be confusing and disconcerting. As my last blog post demonstrated, missing an arrow can have painful consequences but also hidden blessing. You can walk for quite awhile before seeing a yellow arrow and it can be tempting to begin to walk the Camino solely in anticipation of the next one. Sometimes you just have to stop, have a look around at the green rolling hills unfurling before you, listen for a minute to the symphony of birdsong, feel the warm sun on your face, and hear the gentle whisper of the wind through the trees. You need to be reminded that God is present in the spaces between the arrows.
It occurs to me that we often live our lives in the same way, moving from one arrow to the next, always thinking about a new goal. But what happens when God asks you to take all that he has been equipping you for and launches you into the unknown? What happens when the signals are not so clear? When we must wait longer than our comfort requires to see the next arrow? It is difficult to trust God when the road ahead is uncertain. Our human nature desires a greater measure of control. When will the next arrow come? When will God answer my prayer? What will the answer be? These anxious thoughts can actually cloud our vision and make it hareder to walk on the path God has chosen for us. But this is exactly what God will require of us when we commit to following him. We must learn that the journey itself is a place to enjoy God's presence and blessing. Jesus told us to consider the lilies of the field that the Heavenly Father cares for without their contribution (Luke 12:27). Living by faith means more than trusting God to get to a destination. It also means learning to enjoy the life he has for us between the arrows here and now. It means learning to put our trust in Him rather than in our ability to know what He is doing. It doesn't matter so much if we don't always know what we are doing or where we are going. What matters is that we stay close to the One who does know.