It’s no secret that I’m directionally challenged. And I wish this were true only when I’m driving an automobile. That, at least, is a little more expected and moderately acceptable. Unfortunately, my spatial confusion also extends to large office buildings, hotel hallways (I always come out of my room and turn in exactly the opposite direction of where I should go, much to my husband’s amusement), and shopping malls.
That’s why I’m particularly fond of those big directory signs that let you see the whole footprint of the complex at once. Even then, I look first for that yellow star and the words, “YOU ARE HERE.” Those three little words give me hope. “Okay,” I think, “I am here.” (Whew!) “Now, where do I need to be next? What’s the best route to get there—and what landmarks should I watch for along the way?”
Wouldn’t it be nice if those words were written in bold letters (with the accompanying star) on the landscape of our lives? YOU ARE HERE. If that were the case, “here” would be different in each season and circumstance of life.
YOU ARE HERE. This is what being a parent of a toddler looks like—unidentifiable food crumbs on the floor (and sometimes in your hair), an array of stained bibs and sticky Sippy cups on the counters, and daily tussles centered around a potty chair that leave you pressing weary fingers against your throbbing temple—but just breathe. Look deeply into those trusting, please-show-me-the-world eyes. Drink in that sparkling elixir of effervescent giggles, heart-melting smiles, and I-need-you-now cries. You are here, but you won’t be here long.
YOU ARE HERE. Those “for better or for worse” marriage vows? This is what the “for worse” part refers to: thick-with-hurt silence, cold looks, followed by heated, wounding words…and then more icy silence. A marriage that grows its way through the years has pinnacles of delight and slumps of struggle. And yes, you are here, in a slump…but there is a way to get “there” again. Painful patterns don’t have to be repeated endlessly. You are here, but don’t stay here.
YOU ARE HERE. So this is midlife and, yeah, things are going pretty well. Those you love are healthy, your job seems secure (even if it’s stressful now and then), and no major calamities are looming, as far as you can tell. But, to be honest, your soul feels stale. Relentless obligations and mundane demands of midlife threaten to rob a heart of its dreams. Probing questions resurface from time to time, especially in the night hours: “Is there more for me…more to me? If so what would ‘more’ look like? A different job? A change of location? Maybe a new focus on helping others who have so much less? And how in the world would I get there from here?” The soul-searching questions of mid-life are jarring. You are here. But if you let it, this uncomfortable place might just allow you to dust off your old dreams or find new ones.
Throughout the course of a life, our “YOU ARE HERE” sign keeps changing. Student…newly employed…recently divorced…cancer survivor…finally retired. When I re-read the Christmas story this year, I see it as a directory sign for the soul–a fixed marker around which to orient my always-changing life.
It’s as if God looked down at His directionally-challenged creation…His loved, but lost, humans. He saw our confusion, our rebellion, our futile wanderings. And He put a star in the sky as a point of reference, not only for the wise men coming from the east, but for all of us who need to find our way in life. (Matthew 2:9) The star would lead to a young child named Jesus, meaning “Savior.” But Jesus also had another name that is described in Matthew 1:23 (NKJV): “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
What a stunning thought: God with us, here…however messy, confusing, and imperfect it may be. In the Christmas story God says to us, “You are here, so I’ll come here, too.”
Here is often hard, I know. But I’m learning that it doesn’t matter so much where “here” is—what matters most is who you are here with. Immanuel. YOU ARE HERE…and so is God.
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