“Wherever you go, there you are.”
I’m not sure who said it first, but I think it is one of the most simple and yet profound quotes ever spoken. It comes off as rather obvious, perhaps meaningless. But in it lies a brilliant and beautiful truth, a truth that God quietly whispered to me just recently.
I had just begun an intense, nine-month Bible school, and just weeks into the school I became hopelessly discouraged. Not only was the workload overwhelming, but at the same time, I was walking through a very difficult personal obstacle. It consumed my thoughts, stole my joy and robbed me of any contentment I had previously had with where I was and what I was doing. My despondent state of mind resulted in my thoughts drifting off into future-land, where I pictured everything being happily ever after.
Last year I lived in Thailand for four months doing missions work, and I fell in love with the country. It felt like home to me, and over the four months I lived there, it became part of my dream to eventually move there for long-term missionary work. God had begun and has continued to give me a big passion for the country and a heart for its wonderful people. I love talking about Thailand, eating Thai food and practicing writing the Thai alphabet, not to mention, thinking about all the possibilities of my future there.
This obsession led to a distracted—a wandering imagination as I attempted to put my discouragement on hold. As I sat in class half-listening to lectures on Romans or at my desk half-heartedly working on an assignment, I began getting visions of myself packing away my room, selling my stuff and bitter-sweetly waving goodbye to all of my friends and family as I board an airplane to go back to Thailand. And then, I arrive in Thailand, and as soon as I set foot on the ground, somehow I’m free of all my problems. They just flutter over the border to Burma, and I live happily ever after as a life-long missionary, going through adventure after adventure, being in danger and living some kind of life like Paul or Hudson Taylor or Amy Carmichael.
If only that’s the way things really were.
If only my visions were reality.
I realize now, that it is not the way things are, ever have been or ever will be.
In the midst of my daydreaming, it suddenly hit me one day. God opened my eyes to something I had been too stupidly oblivious to realize. It is the reality that no matter what I do or where I go in life, “myself” is always going to be right there with me—all of the little things and all of the big things that join together to make me ME. There will always be the weaknesses, the strengths, the imperfections, unique circumstances and all the little quirks, some of which I love and some of which I hate. And for some reason, I had it in my mind that if I could just be in the place I wanted to be at the time, somewhere other than here, somewhere in the future, I’d somehow be able to take everything with me except the person whose life and character and obstacles I was currently trying to work through now, today—in the present.
But that will never be the case.
Wherever you go… there you are.
There seems to be an obsession with “the future” in our culture, specifically within the sub-cultural that Christians have created. We love to quote verses like Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (NRSV). We encourage our friends by saying things like, “I am so excited for all of the amazing plans that God has for your life! I know that He has such wonderful plans in store for your future.” It has resulted in the creation of a mindset for ourselves that is seemingly obsessed with the anticipation that somewhere down the road things will be better. We will be happier. We will be improved and perfected as people. Things will not be like they are now.
Of course, there is some truth in this thinking. Things do change, and we do grow and mature in life. We do overcome obstacles, and we do triumph over weaknesses, goals and hard times, and those are very beautiful times in our lives. Yet our total fixation on all these things to come gradually leads to a discontentment with the present—where we are, who we are, what we’re doing. It fools us into thinking that there is nothing good to be found in today. If only it were next year, we think, things would be better.
Some things will be better in the future, but there will still be circumstances.
There will still be weaknesses that I deal with and obstacles that I must overcome.
Wherever I go, I will still be there.
Wherever I go, the reality of life will still be there.
And that is why it’s dangerous for me to dwell on the future. I am cheating myself out of the reality, the beauty, of today—who I am, where I am, what I’m doing. My “future” may be wonderfully exciting, but I must remember that today I am living in the future that I dreamed about five years ago. In fact, I will always be living in what was once my “future” every day, as I am in the “present.” If this is indeed true, then, according to Jeremiah 29:11, there is hope for today, and there are good things for now.
It has been a long journey, and there is still a long journey to go. But here I am, today, overcoming, growing, hoping.
Wherever you go, there you are.
And that is not such a bad thing.