The Nature of the 7 Journeys
The concept of the non-linear nature of the 7 Journeys arose out of yearly visits to Disney World®. My in-laws lived about eighty miles from Disney in Florida. Every year when we visited, my father-in-law thought it was his duty to treat us to Walt’s place, so we took the obligatory trip from Venice to Orlando to visit Mickey’s world.
After several visits, I became enthralled with the map of the theme park, so enthralled that I memorized it and could make pretty efficient decisions without referring to it. When leaving Tomorrowland, we didn’t have to go through Fantasyland to get to Frontierland. We could go straight from Tomorrowland to Frontierland. Direct connections from each of the “lands” to the others meant we could visit lands in whatever order we chose (following a digital map); we didn’t have to go around the park in a particular order (following the analog map).
At this time, I was also engaged in rethinking a schematic of the spiritual life. Here, too, I was messing with thoughts of digital versus analog, sequential versus random, and linear versus circular. The old paradigms or schematics—Navigator Wheel, Bill Bright’s 10 Basic Steps, Willow Creek’s 5 Gs, even Rick Warren’s baseball diamond—caused serious problems for me. They had a rather linear feel to them. The steps or next levels had the feel of leaving the others areas behind, rewarding spiritual maturity with badges or certifications. They seemed to be based on an educational model of competency achievement in levels.
I wanted to revisit certain fundamental truths regularly, but they were encased in the beginning levels of these paradigms. The mental models I grew up with indicated that I was regressing in my journey in any attempt to explore what a “Cross-centered” life was.
Another discomfort related to the areas as parts of the whole, pieces of an interlocking puzzle yet separate. The synergy and interactions among different areas weren’t apparent in these highly compartmentalized schematics. My understanding of my position in God’s family directly relates to how I am able to serve God using the resources He has given to me. I longed to have fewer boundaries and more synergy among the keys areas of the spiritual journey.
Others’ schematics also seemed couched in the Greek mind-set—dependent on gaining knowledge rather than on driving toward an intimate emotional relationship with a Creator God. I needed something that not only addressed my mind but also exposed me to a more emotional and less cognitive approach to the spiritual life.
Through a series of real-life field tests, the 7 Journeys came into existence. Each journey is defined as a movement from one extreme to another. This indicates that we never complete the journey this side of the grave. Each journey is also defined by a verb. Moving from earner to heir in our relationship with God requires that we stop trusting in ourselves and our efforts to please God and begin to trust in who He is and that what He has done is sufficient for our place in His family.
The journeys resemble the map at Disney World. You can move from one to the other directly. As the Spirit teaches and moves in your life, you can flow from one to the other. They are digital (CD) rather than analog (cassette tape). You don’t have to go through all the songs to get to the one you want. You simply go right to it. So, too, with the Spirit, which, interacting with us, can move freely from one arena to another.
Three Key Understandings
There are three key understandings about the journeys that help to engage them. First, what we think is good or right can actually be disruptive to our spiritual growth. God’s plans for our lives are often counterintuitive to what we think or feel. Following Him can be both exciting and confusing as we soon realize we don’t know what is best even for ourselves and trust that He does. The analogy of a fish feeling wet used in a previous chapter is appropriate here. What works for us in life, our style of relating, becomes natural, but doesn’t always jive with God’s wisdom for life as we will soon see.
Second—and there is no easy way to put this—we are worse off than we think, but we are more loved than we could ever imagine. The Bible declares we have all compiled a long history of living apart from God. Yet it also points out how much God loves us, so much so that He sent His only Son to die in our place. Crazy, huh?
I like to think of this as the chemistry of grace, the connection between our being made in the image of God—our dignity—and our refusal to allow God to be the organizing principle of our lives—our depravity. As the two of those collide, the catalyst of God’s unthinkable love for us makes for a life of transforming move through brokenness, repentance, abandonment, confidence, and release.
Third, we won’t grow as fast as we desire. There is nothing instant about the spiritual journeys. There may be sudden leaps forward, but they are not the norm. The daily habits of living in obedience to God will transform from the inside out. It may take years to see the results, and they are often felt before they are seen.
However, we will grow as we partner with God and exercise our trust by regularly reading and obeying His Word. With Paul, often our weaknesses become a chance for God to declare His strength, and once again we experience the counterintuitive nature of this journey (2 Cor. 12:9). You see, becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ takes time. A lifetime actually!