And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”
And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”
1 Samuel 10:21b-22 (NLT)
I am reminded this morning of a conversation I had with a fellow actor during a production this past year. She had been sharing with bits of the story of her own life journey. Like many people, her life had been marked with some difficulty and we were talking about the struggles and disappointments we experience in life.
“I took an informal poll and asked a bunch of people if their lives had turned out the way they had expected when they were young,” my friend told me. “Not one person said ‘yes,'” she explained. “So, I figured that while my life wasn’t what I expected it to be, I’m just like everybody else.”
I recalled this conversation when I read about Saul being unexpectedly anointed king, empowered by God’s spirit, and then choosing to go hide in the baggage. The reality is that we will all face certain events, circumstances, opportunities and callings in this life which we didn’t expect, nor do we feel capable of facing. Like Saul, it’s tempting when experiencing a major curve in life’s road to take a good look at the uncertain path ahead and immediately run for cover.
God makes a habit of throwing unexpected and seemingly tangential waypoints into our journey. Saul experienced it in today’s chapter. Mary experienced it with an unexpected angelic visit and a positive pregnancy test. Paul experienced it on the road to Damascus. Joseph experienced it being sold into slavery by his brothers. Moses experienced it in a conversation with God amidst a burning bush. The twelve disciples experienced it in Jesus’ betrayal and late night arrest, then a few days later in an unexpected appearance of the resurrected Lord.
We cannot control our circumstances, but neither should we be afraid of the road ahead. We who walk by faith are repeatedly told not to fear, not to be anxious, and to choose to rejoice even in the toughest most unexpected stretches of life’s journey. God purposes not the fulfillment of our short-sighted and finite desires but the fulfillment of eternal and divine purposes. God will not call us to walk a path we are incapable of traversing. Even if we stumble and stagger, we can be confident that there is meaning in the struggle which will only be revealed when we later look back with 20-20 hindsight at just how far the journey has brought us.
Now, get out of that steamer trunk and put on your hiking boots. Time is waning and we’ve got a long road ahead of us.