“We gotta get outta this place” — The Animals
“I thought happiness was Lubbock Texas in my rearview mirror.” — Mac Davis
“Let us press on to know the Lord!” — Hosea 6:3
Greetings, hikers! We’re at the trailhead of our long journey, so let’s open our guidebook and read the brief description of our first ascent. Take a moment to get acquainted with Psalm 120.
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
We’ve all heard some form of that adage. Books begin with the first words banged out on a keyboard. Paintings begin with the first brush stroke. My version from my landscaping days reads, “The toughest part of digging a ditch is turning the first shovelful of dirt.” It’s true. The hardest part of any job is just getting started.
In one sense, that “first step” principle is accurate, but the truth is, whether we’re talking about ditches or journeys, there’s a critical step before that first step. We’ll just call it motivation. Every movement is preceded by a reason to move.
To paraphrase, Newton’s third law of physics, “Objects at rest remain at rest, until something makes them move.”
So here we are, greeted at the beginning of our long hike with the most common motivator known to man. Our songwriter tells us what inspired him to hit the road. It was distress and woe. In other words, trouble.
He writes, “In my distress I cried to the Lord. Woe is me!” (Psalm 120:1, 5)
One of the most effective instigators of progress and change is that old, unwelcome, uninvited companion of trouble, in any of its troublesome forms––hardship, sickness, relational breakdown, famine, financial crisis, oppression, pain and war. The perpetual movement of refugees from ancestral homelands to strange, yet open, promising nations is motivated by painful upheaval.
I don’t know why Mac Davis found Lubbock, Texas so unpleasant, but the author of Psalm 120 describes an environment anyone would rather see in their rearview mirror than out their front door.
Obviously his home, sweet home of Meshech and Kedar were towns full of liars, haters and warmongers. Of course, he didn't actually live in those cities since they were about 1,000 miles apart. Meshech is modern Moscow. Kedar was deep in Arabia. Yet apparently his place of residence was just as dangerous and unpleasant as those sin cities, which were definitely not on the “Best Places to Raise Your Family” index.
The clear tone of Psalm 120 is “We gotta get out of this place. Too long here. Enough is enough.”
And who hasn’t said something like that?
“It’s time to fix this relationship.”
“It’s time to lose this unhealthy weight.”
“It’s time to quit playing religion and get to know God in a deeper, personal and more intimate way.”
But I wonder how many of us, prodded by pain to finally make the move, that will make the difference, have gripped the soft arms of our comfortable Lazy Boy, pulled ourselves forward a bit, then surrendering to the gravity of apathy, sank back into our cozy, familiar nest and promised ourselves, Tomorrow.
Let’s make today that tomorrow. It’s time to make a move. Of course life always has elements of conflict, but if you’re tired of living like a victim in a war zone, you can make some basic changes now that will put you on to the trail to higher ground. Lot had good reason to leave Sodom, and you and I have reason enough to vacate our Meshechs and Kedars.
Or we can choose to adapt to a life of compromise, convincing ourselves and our loved ones, “It’s not really so bad after all!” As the farmboy Wesley and Princess Buttercup walked into the deadly fire swamp in the film Princess Bride, Wesley said, “Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” If we decide to settle in and claim our half-acre of some battlefield, we’d better prepare to count and be counted among the casualties of war.
Or maybe it’s time to relocate. Hosea called his nation to “press on to know the Lord.” That’s good advice for us too. So allow me to make a suggestion. GET UP! And if you own a Lazy Boy, chop it up and carve yourself a hiking stick for this journey. Then follow this songwriter’s lead. If you are longing for peace, cry out to God who gives perfect peace to those who keep their eyes on Him.
Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.” I often pray for friends who have yet to begin this journey with Jesus to be “blessed” with an appropriate level of discontent, or unrest, and for a soul-hunger to gnaw at their heart, until they seek rest in Jesus.
Do words like restless, troubled and woe define your life? Then know this, you can only find your resting place, your refuge, in God. You were designed by God to know Him intimately and He’s the only “place” your life will ever make sense.
So at the beginning of this hike, let’s call on the name of Jesus, the Peace Giver, crucified and risen to lift the crushing burden of guilt and remorse over all your past failure. Ask Him to forgive your sin. Allow Him to make you a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God didn’t intend life to be full of violence and deceit. You and I were made for something better and higher. There really is “a better place for me and you.” That place is found in Christ.
We may move through badlands, but we dare not settle there. To repeat Hosea’s call, “C’mon, hikers, let’s press on to know the Lord.”
Isn’t it time to make the move?