When God sets this grand adventure before you, even with the promised end in mind, it's easy to take more responsibility for it than we need to. Certainly, we need to embrace what God has asked of us. We need to envision the day that is coming. We need to hold on with hope and move with discipline. But ultimately, how things work out is not our responsibility.
It's easy to see where we get the idea that it is. God comes to us and tells us this beautiful thing, this glorious promise. I'm going to ______, He says. And we consider that and find out it is good and decide even that we want that. Then we go about trying to get that and figure if we do, it is good; if we don't, we have failed. But that's not the truth.
The truth is the victory is never up to us; victory has always been God's. What's up to us is not where we're going, but how we get there. And what does God require?
To live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) That's what we're responsible for.
To live justly. To do the right, good, and honest things. To embrace integrity, oneness, wholeness of purpose. To balance purpose and pursuit so we're not causing undue harm along the way. There are many directions in which we can be just in our journey. We can be just toward the promised end, with every act of justness measured against the coming day. We can be just toward others who either stand in our way or walk alongside us, refusing to do wrong by them on our way toward what is right. Refusing to see the journey, or anyone in it, as a means to an end. We can be just toward ourselves, refusing to injure or compromise who we are - as broken as that sometimes may be. It's being right with ourselves, our neighbors, our journey, and our God.
To love mercy. To be aware of how often we do not get what we deserve. To be thankful that this is so frequently the case. To cut ourselves some slack and not feel guilty about it, but breathe a little easier because mercy is a gift. It frees us from being tied to who we ought to be and lets us get wrapped up in the journey itself. The broken, beautiful mess of the journey. It's cutting other people the same slack. Because in a world in which we have been given so much mercy, how could we not be merciful in return? Mercy is even greater than grace. Grace is a gift, but mercy is freedom. It's the chance to be more than your chains could ever tie you to. It's a chance to step forward unencumbered by the past. It's a chance to journey at all. Without mercy, we could not move.
To walk humbly with your God. To take quiet steps forward because this is not a war you're fighting (the fight is already won); this is an adventure you're embracing. To make ripples, not waves. To have a certain stillness of spirit that understands it's not your job to win. It's your job to take small, courageous, faithful steps in a godly direction every new moment. To remember that you're not blazing a trail; you're walking a path. To remember that you're not leading the way; you're following. Even if others would come after you, you're still following God more than you are ever leading them. It's remembering your place in all of this, putting yourself there again and again until it's just so natural, and submitting every day to the grand adventure before you...and the God who has ordained that path.
See? You have plenty to do already without even worrying about the win. And that's where we so often get it wrong. We're focused on what's coming. We're focused on the end game. We hold on to the promise when we ought to set ourselves free for the journey.
Whatever it is that awaits you at the end of the road God has called you to walk, it pales in comparison to the blessings of the beaten path. If God has given you the victory, you will have the victory; no need to concern yourself with that. Your job, and your joy, is to journey. And this is what God requires of you. Not to win, but to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.