When my son Jonathan was about three years, we took a long drive to Cape Town, 12 hours to be precise. The plan was to leave Joburg at 6am in order to arrive at 6pm. It was raining when we left home that morning, but not even the rain could dampen the excitement of the journey. By 9am we were already in another province, the Free State, we stopped for breakfast. It was a clear beautiful morning in Bloemfontein, the weather added to the excitement. Then proceeded to the Northern Cape. We passed the area of this province that was very dry, semi-desert, windy and very hot. By that time the excitement has worn off. It has gotten quiet in the car, you could tell everybody was tired. But it was when we were one and half hour to our final destination when my son made a passionate plea “can we please go back home.” We had been on the road for almost ten and half hour, and we were closer to our destination, than we were to our home.
It became very clear to me at that moment that when he got into the car that morning, he had one thing in his mind “arriving at his destination.” He was not interested in the journey. I believe that was the case with the children of Israel when they left Egypt, they had their destination in mind.
They left Egypt with great excitement. They left behind a life of slavery, hard labour and abuse. But their excitement did not last. About a month after being delivered from Egypt, they began to feel differently about their circumstances. And they wanted to go back to Egypt. “Who shall give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11 v 5-6.
It seems unbelievable that they wanted to go back to a deplorable life of slavery. They knew very well that if they went back to Egypt, they would once again be enslaved, but at least for them, that was familiar and predictable compared to the unknown they were facing in the desert. As human beings we have the fear of unknown. The Israelites were caught between the promise and the things they know. Familiar things are never easy to discard.
Many times when we find ourselves in places of great discomfort, we are tempted to want to return to the past, by reminiscing about what used to be or holding on to sentimental attachments. Longing for the past is an illusion, the future holds more promise than anything that used to be. The journey from slavery to freedom was undoubtedly filled with trials and tribulations, and yet by overcoming adversity they became stronger and more matured and eventually, more assured that leaving Egypt was in fact the right thing to do. God is interested not only in our final destination but also in the journey because on that journey He does a work in our lives that has eternal value.
Life is a journey. It is a journey through the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. God uses the journey to teach us faith, to refine our character, and to equip us for our calling. It is in the journey of life that we find God. On slippery roads, roads with pitfall and roadblocks, we discover His Grace and in the dead-end of our journey we find God’s Redemption.
When the journey gets harder and you are tempted to ‘go back home’ remember the word of God by the Prophet Isaiah “do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing.” Isaiah 43 v 18-19. After all, the journey with God is always ahead. It is once you have arrived at your destination that you can say indeed ‘difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.’