Something that rings true to most people I meet. We all seem to have a genuine desire to be able to look ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day with a clear conscience.
The tricky part we all face is staying true to that in the face of our other desires. Our passions. Our work life and so on. It also gets a whole lot trickier when you add directions from God into the mix.
But shouldn't directions from God make things simpler? Think about this for a minute - What happens when the thing we feel we know we've heard from a perfect God, at some later point collides with our conscience? What do we do then?
Abraham and Sarai were so obsessed by the promise that God gave them of a child in their old age, that after some time they were willing to agree together to defile the sanctity of their own marriage to try and bring about that promise to reality. Abraham, after being persuaded by Sarai agreed to lay with Sarai's maidservant in order for her to conceive what they hoped would be this child of promise. The problem was, Sarai would indeed fall pregnant... later, and as we all know her son Isaac would become the father of Israel, that child of promise.
I will never forget hearing a pastor preaching from the pulpit how he would have been more than happy to see his Church empty if people weren't on board with the vision he was bringing. He "had heard from God" and regardless of how bad things ended up he would "even do it in the flesh" if it came to that. Against every other fibre of his being, this vision would happen. He heard what he heard from God, and that was that. And there would certainly be no fear of man that would get in the way of bringing it to pass.
You see, I can empathise with having strong vision. In fact really I believe we are all dead in the water without it. Yet while vision is like the GPS pin pointed on the destination which we are headed - it is actually our values and conscience that act as the road signs that guide us down particular roads along the journey. This is vital because traffic conditions can and do change along the way. While we need to keep our eye on the destination ahead, we can't afford lose sight of the values that affect everything immediately in front of us and all around us right now.
Abraham and Sarai began with a promise that was from God. They encountered the fact along the way of their old age and 'barrenness of Sarai's womb. This fact was continually shouting at them. "Maybe God could have meant something different"... the inner voice getting louder and louder as the years went on. "Maybe when God said to Abraham that 'out of your own bowels will be your heir', He didn't mean for it to be with Sarai. Maybe the maidservant would be ok to get the job done. I mean this is the will of God we're talking about here, right? Nothing is more important, right?"
Turns out God's nature is not only more important than His will. It actually turns out that God's nature is His will.
God values marriage. His key promise to Abraham was absolutely hidden inside that value of marriage - not just in the pushing out of a baby. it was hidden in the following of values. Even though that invloved a road of future confusion and feelings of failure. This is such a common thread in Scripture.
Many times we look at that GPS pin on the destination and think the straightest road is the one we should take. The shortest timeframe to success. The least amount of exertion.
The truth is though, more than not history has proven the shortest road is the quickest route to missing the end altogether. What began with the Spirit many times has sadly ended with obsessive perfectionism, or a rushing toward a goal with a stream of dead bodies in the wake. Yet curiously never arriving.
If we took a moment to look behind us i'd like to think we might see why.
What begins with the Spirit must be guided by the Spirit - from beginning to end. We must endeavour to stay attentive to His voice within our conscience, as well as His clear established values. Many times these things will tell us to stay and fight when everything else tells us to run. Other times they will tell us to run, when they once had clearly told us to stay.
Either way, one thing is certain. There will be twists and turns, there will be seasons of confusion and feelings of failure. And yet if we stay true to that age old compass of values and conscience, we can be encouraged that those bumps aren‘t always what they may seem.
Maybe those horrible bumps are not signs of failure or of having gone down a wrong road. Maybe instead they’re the living, breathing moments for us to continue the journey of now on the narrow, redemptive and perfect road.