Reading the famous story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, you will observe several people going down a path and how they react to something unexpected. As the men traveled along the road to their destinations, notice that they faced something they did not account for when they started. They had probably made that uneventful journey many times before and each time the trip went off without a hitch. This time, however, fate chose to throw them a curveball and they had to make a choice of how they were going to handle it. What they did next illustrates a powerful point about how people move through the journey called life.
The unexpected element of their journey was a man who had been mugged and left for dead along the road. The first traveler walked along, saw the victim, and intentionally moved to the other side of the road to avoid contact with the injured man. A second man approached and did the exact same thing.
This seems heartless, but why did they do it? Why did they ignore a man in obvious need? When you dig deeper into motivation, you find that they really are not much different than most people today. These two men had a destination and were trying to get someplace. In their minds, they knew exactly where that place was and how to get there. So they started on the road and determined that they would not let anything distract them or keep them from their destination.
When they ran into the injured man, they saw him not as a man in need, but as a delay to reaching their destination. That caused them to ignore him and press on with their destination in the forefront of their minds. Did they reach their destinations? Probably so. And did they get there on time? I believe they did. By the definition of the efficiency expert they were successes. They decided upon a goal, did not allow themselves to become distracted en route, and reached their destination on time.
But what they may have gained in efficiency they lost in the richness of the journey. For them it was all about the end goal or the destination. And as long as they reached that end goal it did not matter how they got there. But by putting so much emphasis on the destination, they missed the great enjoyment and fulfillment that they could have had by being attentive on the trip.
Everyday, millions of Americans do the same thing. They wake up, determined to reach some destination in their career, salary or relationships and they push forward with that one goal in sight. Unfortunately, pursuing their destination causes them to miss everything else that is going on during their trip. Even if they reach their destination, they will never be as satisfied as those who took time to enjoy - even be delayed by - the trip.
The third traveler in the story, a man we know today as the Good Samaritan, understood this principle. The first two men had tunnel vision and were so focused on their destination that they walked right past the hurt man so they could get to the end of their journey. However, the Good Samaritan put aside his desire to reach his destination as quickly as possible and helped the injured man. Even though he did not get where he wanted as fast as the other men, his journey was ultimately much more fulfilling.
Life is filled with all kinds of detours and bumps in the road. You may think you know where you are going and how long it will take you to get there, but inevitably something will happen and throw off your plans. Those are the moments when you need to pause and soak in everything happening, for it very well could be that there is some great blessing in the detours. Some of the most memorable moments in life are the ones you did not expect. When something did not go the way you anticipate, you first look at it as an annoyance, but when you take the time to explore it and embrace it, you may soon discover that it was worth the momentary delay on your journey.
It is in the times when you help out a friend in need, minister to a broken co-worker or encourage a family member that you realize there is far more to life than setting a goal and dropping everything else to reach that goal. You discover that the best moments in your journey of life are ones you could never script or plan. They just happen, and when they do you are ready to make the most of them.
Ask almost all successful people and they will tell you the same thing – life did not turn out how they expected it or planned it out. They became successful because they realized that when they were delayed or challenged they should not fight it but find out what meaning that event has that would forever enrich their lives.
I am all for having dreams and setting goals, however I have seen that the dreams and goals often become destinations. As people strive for these destinations, they miss the blessings that are right in front of them. These people call themselves “determined” or “driven” and will avoid anything that may slow them down as they strive to get to their destination. They are the people who may be climbing the corporate ladder, but do so at the cost of a spouse who feels neglected and kids who grow up without a parent at many of their events. They do not attend church because it is not productive and have few close friends because of their schedule.
Do they reach their destination? Many times, yes, they do. But it comes at a very large cost. It comes with them losing the best years of their life working to reach a destination while all along they have ignored the trip.
The irony of it all is that when they reach that destination many times they discover to their disappointment that it did not bring the kind of satisfaction they thought it would. They get there and the feeling is, “Huh, is that it? I thought the joy of reaching this pinnacle would be greater. It is not living up to the way I built it up for so many years.” Then they survey their lives and begin to wonder what they have to show for their efforts? Few memories, few unusual stories, few things that really last.
My question is simply: is it worth it? Is it worth reaching some grander destination if in order to get there you cannot even enjoy the trip? Wanting to be successful is a very good thing; everyone should set goals for things they want to accomplish and seize their future to make it magnificent. But you would be foolish if you put so much emphasis on the destination that it caused you to miss all of the wonderful little experiences along the way. Try focusing on right here and right now and you will be far more satisfied with the way your life turns out.
Ryan Downing is an author, writer and public speaker who focuses on helping people discover who God is and how He is relevant to their everyday lives. His book Energize Your Life is a compellation of 365 short messages to inspire and enlighten its readers. He also is the Associate Pastor of Threesixty University and Young Professionals at Phoenix First Assembly church where he helps to direct and cast vision to young adults. Connect with Ryan at his website www.ryandowning.com
Publication date: April 12, 2011