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Are you one of those people that gets so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey?

I sure am.

There’s something to be said for determination and focus, but when it comes to living life well and joyfully these would-be virtues can sabotage the whole thing if they’re allowed to put the pedal to the metal without some reasonable restraint.

Sometimes that restraint comes from a fellow passenger encouraging you to stop and smell the roses with them.

And sometimes that restraint is a child in the backseat who has to pee. Right now. Or, closer to my experience of late, who happens to be puking.

I think we all know there are fun ways to “slow down” that we would do well to implement before the more catastrophic pauses are forced upon us.

But what I’ve been learning lately is not just to stop and smell the roses, and not just to slam on the breaks to care for a sick child.

What I’m learning lately is that if the destination is worth it then the steps it takes to get there are worth it, too.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. [Insert shouts of jubilation!] We had two nights at home without the kids.

It was glorious.

But we stayed up late the first night watching a movie. And this after being rather low on sleep for the past several weeks.

I don’t function very well on low sleep.

And the next morning my husband had to drop his truck off in town a bit early while I took a little longer at home to get ready for the ballroom dancing class we took that day.

Because when you’re close friends with the lady who teaches the ballroom dancing class, you can do things like have it scheduled for the day of your anniversary. Yep, she’s a good friend. đŸ˜‰

Anyway, I have this history of getting stressed about having to get ready to go somewhere. Especially when I have to get little people ready to go somewhere. Our anniversary was different, of course–no kids!–but the anxiety still threatened to steal my joy. I worried about what to wear, changing outfits about five times. I worried that I would be running late and that my husband would be upset with me.

I think I was able to identify what was going on with me on this day, however, partly because it was such a special day that I knew I ought to just enjoy, and partly because I’d just read a chapter on anxiety in a book called Fututre Grace.

I didn’t think I had an issue with anxiety until I read that chapter and found it quite convicting. Quite.

My tendency to overplan? That’s just me trying to maintain control, which stems from fear rather than faith.

My tendency to run through all possible outcomes and plan for every contingency? Yep, anxiety. I might flatter myself that I’m just some kind of planning mastermind (that would be called pride), but God’s word tells a different story when I come face to face with its call to live by faith, casting all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me.

This concept of living by faith in future grace helped me to see things more clearly on a temporal level as well.

As I drove into town, mulling over these things in my heart and mind, clear thinking finally broke through.

I’m going to enjoy my anniversary with my husband. He’s not upset with me, he’s happy to be with me. Even if I am running a little behind (which it turned out I wasn’t!), I’m the one who signed us up for the ballroom dancing class. Not him. He won’t be embarrassed if we’re late. He’ll just go with it. I’m the one putting this pressure on myself. 

If I’m excited about what I’m getting ready for (a date with my husband) why shouldn’t I enjoy getting ready??? 

This was a pretty defining moment, concentrating a lot of big ideas and messy struggles down into something I could remind myself of when stress builds in places it shouldn’t:

If I’m going to enjoy the outcome then I ought to appreciate the steps it takes to get there.

A new Bible reading plan has me reading rather large passages in the Old Testament in one sitting. I have to admit, some mornings it’s been a little hard to feel up to it. But I love the result of having taken in much of God’s word and seeing it in a sweeping movement of history and redemption. And so the day-to-day plodding through it is worth it. I can even take joy in it.

Similarly, I’ve managed to set myself up with several deadlines for projects that require a lot of reading, research, writing, planning, and people-coordinating. And these each are culminating in social engagements.

I’m doing a lot of extroverting for someone who is such a die-hard introvert.

While I often enjoy reading, researching, and writing in their own right, I usually do them on my time, my whims. Adding the time constraint and the social aspect to the mix makes for more demands on my time, energy, and mental resources than I am used to handling.

And my husband has been out for work travel these past two weeks.

And the past two days there’s been the puking.

But again, in each of these cases, there’s an end goal in mind that is worth the discomfort.

I love getting together with my sweet friends for a book study. The refreshment it brought made all the preparation for leading it so worth it. And seeing this ahead of time helped me to enjoy that process (and the resulting refreshment!) all the more.

I love getting to share what I’ve learned with others, so the presentation I’ve been working on, though it has been challenging, especially given the timing of craziness in our family right now, has been one giant exercise in learning to enjoy the nitty-gritty work and headaches that are just a part of producing something worthwhile.

And as a mother, oh, as a mother, the “interruptions” of sick kiddos are also worth it. So, so, so worth it. Because I love them and responding to their needs is just one “stop” along the road–a road that culminates in, well, not so much a destination as in a story. A story of learning to love them the way God loves me.

It’s a story that involves a lot of mistakes and repentance, but I think you get the idea.

In the past I’ve just done the grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it thing telling myself somehow it will be worth it in the end, all the while giving in to complaining and anxious, faithless worry. I’m learning that not only is this sin that needs repented of, it’s also not that effective in the long term, either. Go figure.

If I take no joy in the journey, will I be able to fully enjoy the result? Won’t I still be begrudging much of the discomfort it might have cost me if I have allowed myself to indulge in the habit of kicking and screaming through the whole process?

Yep. Better kick that bitterness at the process before it steals the joy of the end result.

I’m thankful that the Lord has been at work to convict me and bring growth through what could have been an utterly overwhelming and stressful couple of weeks. He’s good.

The refining that He ordains for us isn’t always easy, but we can take joy in it, too, knowing that the result of being made more like Christ and bringing glory to Him–well, that is certainly worth it.