For the last 14 years, my husband has been leading college student groups around parts of Europe each summer. While they get class credit, he shows them the wonders of the Swiss Alps or the history of the church at places like the Colosseum in Rome. He is a tour guide extraordinaire, and he loves to travel. He’s good at it. He’s flexible, organized, and energetic. He loves teaching and spending time with the students.
I, on the other hand, am a homebody, a creature of routine. I like to travel once I’m there, seeing amazing new places and learning more about the world, but I tend to dread it for the months leading up to it. It takes me outside of my comfort zone.
This summer, while my son was on a separate trip to Italy with a group of students, my husband finally had the chance to take my daughter and me to Italy to see a country that he loves. It was beautiful, and we now love it, too. I didn’t realize there were Italian Alps or an Italian Riviera. I love art, but had never given much thought to what you could see in Florence. The leaning tower of Pisa really does lean, and it’s absolutely beautiful! The waterways of Venice were a favorite. The food was delicious.
Through this wonderful trip, though, I had my eyes focused on July 11. That was the day we would travel home, the day we would meet up with our son’s group in the UK and all fly home together. That was the day the trip would be completed and I would know all had gone well and be able to enter back into my much-loved routine with my much-loved family.
But things don’t always go according to plan. Our flight was delayed. We missed the connection. My son would travel on with his group, catch a ride home with someone to our empty house, spend his first night home alone with us overseas (he is old enough and capable—no concern there), and we would enjoy London and return the next day. That all sounds pretty sweet, really. But when your eyes have been fixed on one moment for six months, when you’ve had this one big expectation, when you’re tired now from several days of travel, there’s a big letdown.
Riding the London Underground into the city, I could finally grab my Bible during which time I was able to refocus on what was true. God is in control, not me. And when I exited the Tube and looked up, my eyes met Big Ben, and I realized this could actually be viewed as a special addition to an already wonderful trip. (We even saw the excitement and activity surrounding their choice of a new prime minister that day.)
When I returned home, I read one of the last things I had written in my journal before leaving, as I had prayed about the trip: “God doesn’t want me to control my circumstances and environment. He by His Spirit wants to control me in them, to help me be self-disciplined and have self-control over emotions, yes, but also to be Spirit-controlled and Spirit-filled—not just to be managed, but to go forward in His will, way, and calling.”
This story is a small example that serves as a reminder: when I fix my eyes and set my hope on anything other than God, I am sure to be disappointed. But when I fix my eyes on God and His perfect plan, I will adjust more easily to the challenges that enter my day.
Since returning home, I’ve had other opportunities to notice how easy it is for me to be led by my emotions, to react and respond with what I feel instead of what I know, to do things quickly then without prayer, using my common sense, instead of looking to God for what He would desire—and it’s never good that way!
When our ultimate hope is God (not British Airways) and we’re looking forward to a destination like heaven (not our earthly home), there will be less room for disappointment, and great cause to rejoice and be glad in all circumstances. When we put our hope and trust in Him, we will see just how much God loves us and is working for our good, transforming us and making us more like Himself.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.