When I travel to a location I’ve never been, I usually use Google maps. No doubt most of you reading this blog would use your larger, more modern phones. However, my iPhone is ancient in cell-phone years, which leads to a few disadvantages. The screen is so small that if I pull up a map on my phone where I can see the whole trip, it’s too small to be of any use. But if I have it take me through a trip piece by piece, I can’t really see what’s up ahead or tell what my next move (e.g., turn or go straight) ought to be. Also, I don’t have Siri to walk me through the trip aloud while I’m driving. So I check Google maps before I set out and write down detailed directions. I look at the whole trip on my computer and then at each step of the trip until I have a picture of the journey in my mind.
Odd, I know.
This predilection of mine came to mind as I was reading the story of Jesus’ ascension. The disciples have been through three years with Jesus. It was an exciting whirlwind journey during which the disciples spent a great deal of time in a state of confusion as to what Jesus was really saying and doing, filled with more questions than answers. But now Jesus’ death and resurrection have been accomplished. Luke tells us that just before Jesus’ ascension, Jesus opens the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures and clarify Jesus’ words and teaching (24:44-49).
Confusion gone, questions answered…right? Well…
In Acts 1, Luke gives further details on the ascension, mentioning in v. 6 a question the disciples asked of Jesus immediately prior to Jesus being lifted up: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” The asking of this question shows that the disciples were still not completely clear on the meaning and implications of all Jesus had said and done.
In his answer, Jesus states that the Father had fixed the times and seasons for events to come. Such things were not to be the disciples’ focus. Rather, they were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and then be Jesus’ witnesses. Exactly what that was to look like or even exactly when that was to take place was not their concern. They were to go back to Jerusalem and wait. They still had questions, they were still confused about some things, but they had their marching orders directly from Jesus and that was to be enough.
Sadly, I must confess that I probably would have struggled with Jesus’ answer and instructions. This would be like only seeing a very limited view of the next part of my journey on the screen of my phone. I want to see the big picture—the whole journey, step by step. I want to know my destination. And I want to know when I’m supposed to make the next turn and what direction I am to turn. And then, of course, I need to know which lane I should get in after my turn so I will be prepared for the next turn after that. I feel much safer having a picture of the whole journey before setting out.
But that is not the way life with God works. We don’t always understand what he’s saying or doing. We don’t always know where he’s going. We have lots of questions, many of which may never be answered. But Jesus promised he would be with us always and that he would send his Spirit who would give us power and guidance. That’s really all we need.
Maybe I should upgrade my phone—get that bigger screen and Siri to give me guidance. I must confess, though, that when listening to Siri on a friend’s phone, I sometimes find her directions to be a bit convoluted. So maybe I should just be content with that small screen that reveals the next step in the journey, but not much beyond that. Yes, I need to trust that God knows the destination he has for me and the route I need to take to get there. I need to follow the directions he’s given me and then wait. May I learn to do so with patience and contentment, resting in the care and guidance of the risen Savior and his powerful and enlightening Spirit.
It sure would be nice to have a newer phone, though!
Questions for Contemplation:
Does seeing the big picture make you feel safer and more secure? Why?
In what ways are you living as if it’s not enough to know just the next step?
How do you react when the next step is to wait?