I work with an organization called the World Race. It’s an eleven month discipleship journey around the globe. Thousands of adventure-seeking Jesus followers in their mid-twenties have signed up for this trip. As a contact for the World Race, I help connect them with local ministries for the month that they stay with us. A common theme or trend I have seen among racers is to believe that something magical is going to happen to them on the World Race.
Maybe they have been around their friends who went on the race, came back with six new tattoos and stories about dangerous toilets in India.
Or maybe they have been trying to figure out what college or training program is going to give them the kick in the pants they need to get real with their relationship with Jesus.
As the racers being their journey there are so many new experiences. They are pushed out of their comfort zone. They start growing bolder in their faith. Everything is going well.
Then halfway through the race things get tough. Team changes happen, medications run out, sleeping in tents is no longer glamorous and the country they are in has accepted everyone’s visa application except for theirs.
The hardest part is not necessarily the bugs or the heat or the difficult team relationships, it’s the growing realization that they are in month eight of the race and are basically the same person.
Now desperation sets in.
I love watching participants of the world race come to the same dawning realization I had after being on the field for over a year; namely that no amount of ministry can fix you. That serving others isn’t ultimately the answer, and that you can run all around the world bagging countries and taking selfies with orphans and in the end still remain empty and unfulfilled.
Absolutely nothing substitutes for a real and living interaction with the risen Jesus.
In the first Chapter of G.K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy he describes a man who accidently lands on back on England’s shore, thinking it a new country. Chesterton describes that in all his philosophical searching he ended up returning to territory already discovered, mainly the faith of his youth. He saw it all with new eyes, appreciating it for what it is.
Maybe that is the point of the World Race, to roam the earth and let all the air out of the Instagram dreamworld of travel. Maybe it’s to put people face to face with themselves. To gut their lives of the fantasy that flying around the world will make them a different person. To be stripped of everything and be found alone, sobbing in a bathroom in Cambodia, longing for nothing but Jesus.
You can have all this world, give me Jesus.
And I’ve seen it over and over again. Lives that were marked by this longing. People who did not start nonprofits in east Asia, instead they moved back to the Midwest and got a normal job but are on fire with the fire of Jesus.
They are the ones who have learned that the journey is not just to the edge of the globe, they are to the depths of his heart. And no changing panoramas compare to the sweetness of His voice.
Do you know him like that?