Directions to Nowhere
During my sojourn throughout different parts of the world, I have learned that there are some streets where if you get lost and would like to ask for directions, you should think twice—or rather, ask twice.
"Where is the public library?" you may ask a local who is passing by. "Oh, it is straight ahead, hundred meters away," he might say.
And so you walk on, and after 30 minutes and way past that "hundred meters," you realize that the person has given you wrong directions. Then you decide to ask another for what are, hopefully, the right directions. This time, the person whom you ask tells you to go back the way you came from for a hundred meters. "How can this be? I just came from there," you inform her. However, she insists that she is right and that you should trust her. So you retreat a hundred meters and you are back to where you had started, and not any closer to your destination.
You see, none of those whom you had asked actually knew for sure where your destination is. However, in order to "save face," they pretend that they do and sometimes do a very good job at it! As they did not want to appear ignorant, they had to convincingly point you towards a certain direction—oftentimes, the wrong one.
Trying to get to your destination on one of these crowded streets is in a lot of ways like how we are trying to live our lives. For most of us, our destination is the place where we will find the answers to our existential questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
We long to arrive at that seemingly elusive place where the yearning of our heart will be satisfied; where our soul will finally find its home and rest. But how do we get there? Which direction do we go? How long is the journey?
Some of us were shown the route of the Great American Dream (also known as the Great Singaporean Dream or the Great Malaysian Dream) where we are told that our pursuit of happiness will lead us to our destination. However, not much farther down the path of a successful career, a lovely family, and a five-room picket-fenced house, we find that we are not getting any closer to where our heart wants to go. The soul continues to seek its home.
Then there are those who have taken the route of pleasure by embracing a certain lifestyle that would gratify one in all kinds of sensuous desires. Like many after him, Solomon, the king who possessed so much wealth and denied himself nothing he desired, found this path only futility in his years of indulgence. He records this poignantly in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11:
"I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun."
The route of unbridled pleasure is also a misleading course that will not take us where our souls ultimately seek to go.
Then there is the relativist's way of taking whichever road one wishes, believing they all will lead home. Practical experience with roads that may seem to head in the same direction remind us that they make drastic turns at crucial points and take fellow travelers on farther and farther away from each other. Not all roads can lead to home, it seems.
C.S. Lewis rightly observes that this world will offer us all sorts of things or ways that promise to take us to our soul's destination, but they never quite keep to their word.(1) After the fleeting moment of enchantment leaves us, we are back to our starting point.
There is, however, one who professes to know the way to our destination. In fact, he claims that he IS the way: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Unlike Eastern gurus who claim that they have found the way and that they could show their followers the way, Jesus self-assuredly declares that he is the way, and that only through him will we find true rest at our soul's rightful home.
Which way are you taking today to get wherever it is you feel you must go? And who are you asking for your directions along the way? As C.S. Lewis aptly concludes in Mere Christianity, "[L]ook for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in."
I'Ching Thomas is associate director of training at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Singapore.
(1) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 135.
(2) Ibid., 227.