You Can't Get There From Here
Every culture has strange sayings, vestiges of days past. Some origins are easy to discern like, “Knock it out of the park.” Others like, “Break a leg,” less so.
Then there are the curious phrases that are just good fun.
What’s “a humdinger?”
“Clean as a whistle?” that’s never been blown?
“Give it to me straight like a pear cider made of 100% pears?” Google it.
Why would you ‘beat a dead horse?’ Also, please stop beating horses, dead or alive.
“Out like a light…” that’s, been, turned, off?
“The rules were made to be broken,’ Yeah, pretty sure that’s not why they were made.
And how does ‘imagining everyone in their underwear’ calm the nerves of a first-time public speaker? That’s counterintuitive.
Finally, “You can’t get there from here.”
Back before GPS, in the days when, as a lost traveler, I had to stop and ask directions from some old-timer, always an old-timer. On more than one occasion, upon hearing my desired destination, he would shake his head as though I was willfully lost and say, “Son, you can’t get there from here.”
“Sure, you can, fella.” I’d think. “If I’m here and I need to get there, then there’s no other way to get there than from here. So, unless we’re having an existential conversation in the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly, I’m certain I can get there from here if you’d just be so kind as to give me directions”
I only ever employed the phrase to cleverly expound on its contradiction.
Then, one late night several years ago, I navigated for my brother, Joel, as we traveled from Charlotte to Lexington for a conference. By “navigated,” I mean, I listened to Siri communicate GPS directions and then repeated her instructions.
Siri, “Turn left,”
“Turn left,” I said, looking up from my phone and pointing.
“I can’t turn left, bro. Look!” Joel responded as we passed our hotel. I immediately recognized the problem. A freshly cemented three-foot median wall had been newly installed between our left turn and our destination. We couldn’t turn left.
As we drove past and Siri jabbered, “Recalculating,” I heard myself saying that rascal phrase, “You can’t get there from here.”
And then with epiphanous enthusiasm, “Oh? Oh!
It’s about the road you’re traveling!”
What Am I Still Lacking?
In Matthew 19:16 a young fella came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?”
That’s a good question.
Eternal life feels like an intangible thing most days; a transcendent experience just beyond our reach. For most of us, eternal life doesn’t start until, well, later…
The Greek word for eternal is aiónios and it “does not focus on the future…but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. Thus, we live in “eternal life” right now and can experience this quality of God’s life as a present possession.”
Two things. First, if you’re worried there’s gonna be a lot of Greek in this book, let not your heart be troubled, I didn’t even graduate from Bible College.
Second, Jesus acknowledged the man’s desire to possess eternal life like I possess my favorite coffee mug. I drink from it every day. And that’s pretty cool.
“Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” The young man asked, sincerely.
So, Jesus gave him some well-worn roads he could travel down; some of His greatest hits.
“You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony; Honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man replied, “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
“What am I still lacking?”
That question cuts to the heart of the matter and it’s the one I hope to speak to in this book.
And I imagine Jesus was thrilled by it.
It’s a humdinger; a recognition that even though the young man kept all of the commandments, something was missing; an acknowledgment that something still didn’t measure up. It was a confession of incompleteness, a realization that no matter how far down the road he traveled, no matter what he did, how much he prayed, read his bible, obeyed, or gave, he somehow couldn’t seem to reach his destination.
Eternal life was like a game of whack a mole or an earnest tweet, the more you engage, the more ineffectual and powerless you feel.
What am I still lacking? is a question I asked for much of my life, and I’m not alone. It’s the question so many of my brothers and sisters ask today. It seems to haunt us even after we prayed the prayer, that first one, and the thousandth…
What am I still lacking? we ask after tragedy strikes, after disappointment crushes, after rejection breaks us, after loss devastates.
What am I still lacking? we ask after we miss the mark. It’s the question that torments us in addiction, condemns us when we fail, and shames us after we’ve hurt those we love.
What am I still lacking? we ask Sunday morning before church. And after church.
Because sadly, ‘What am I still lacking?’ is the ‘gospel’ message many sin counting preachers still present from many Western pulpits.
“Prone to wander! Lord, I feel it…” The pastor pontificates. And, good lord, we feel it.
“When I am weak, He is strong,” the teacher espouses, and lord knows it’s true… even though it’s the exact opposite of Paul’s words which read, “When I am weak, I am strong…” (See 2 Cor 12:10) It seems the Apostle’s thoughts about eternal life were truer than his experience with what he was lacking.
That’s worth noting…
What am I still lacking? is the cruel and punishing system so many Christians strive within. It daily reminds us of our inability to measure up, it frustrates us with a beautiful destination that’s always just beyond our reach.
What am I still lacking? reveals dualistic, for or against, us or them thinking. It’s the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It positions us in a fight against flesh and blood. It forces us to point fingers and throw rocks.
What am I still lacking? is the beginning and end of every transactional approach to God, the conclusion of all retributive thinking.
And, “What am I still lacking” was the problem the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t solve.
His question was sincere, his desired destination true and good. The man was endeavoring to arrive at eternal life. And boy if he wasn’t asking the right person for directions.
“Jesus, if I’m here and I need to get there, then how do I get there from here?” He asked.
And Jesus honored his question by redirecting traffic.
“Son, you can’t get there from here,” Jesus responded. “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me…”
Some of this article is excerpted from my forthcoming book, Leaving (& Finding) Jesus
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