It finally happened. I always knew it would – or in fairness might – but even as it got closer, it always seemed somewhat intangible to me. It happened to a bunch of my friends and it always seemed distant, because at that point it had happened to them, but hadn’t yet happened to me. I sort of liked that, but I knew it would come about for me at some point.
Of course, I’m talking about turning 50 last week. The big “5-0” as they say (of course “they” are the ones that haven’t turned it yet). And as much as it was weird and cathartic, I still recognize that it was a milestone. There are many milestones we go through in life, obviously, some positive and some not so. I remember thinking as a kid how I would be 32 when we reached the year 2000 (that was a common thing some of us older folks used to think of in the 1900s – haha). I remember thinking, “oh my GOSH … I’ll be T-H-I-R-T-Y T-W-O!!!!! That is sooooo ollllddddd!” Oh, how I miss being in my 30s. I was sooooo younnnnnggggggg. 😎
So yes, this past week was a milestone. As will usually happen, as I was heading into the week and the milestone was staring me straight in the face, it caused me to think and reflect on a number of things. But I really sort of hunkered down on this notion of milestones. My reading over the week has been through some pretty rich historical sections of scripture, and that pushed the milestone button in me a bit more as well.
In particular, my reading brought me through 1 Kings 16 – 22, 2 Kings 1 – 15, 2 Chronicles 17 – 26, Obadiah 1 – , Psalms 82 – 83, Jonah 1 – 4, and Isaiah 1 – 4. When I read through 1 Kings 19:19-20, I dialed in to the milestone in Elisha’s life it represented. Here’s what it says …
So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”
In actual fact, when we talk about milestones, I think this story represents a milestone in each of Elisha’s and Elijah’s lives. Elijah had served the Lord incredibly faithfully in a difficult time in Israel’s history. In fact, most of what Elijah did and said on the Lord’s behalf were in themselves milestones, especially as we look back over the accounts of Israel and Judah. Not only that, but now we read about the appointment of Elisha as a prophet to take the place of Elijah, and as you read further in 1 Kings and into 2 Kings we see God use Elisha in powerful ways. Also incredible milestones in Elisha’s life.
Clearly we all go through milestones. But what’s the purpose of milestones? Regardless of the context, I think there are some generalizable and always beneficial reasons for them.
In general, milestones serve the purpose of showing us where we are in light of where we’re going. When I think about traveling on the road, something I enjoy doing, a milestone is represented by the mile markers on the road and sign posts along the way. If I am at mile marker 43 and I know that my next exit is at mile marker 82, that serves to show me that I still have 39 miles to travel. On the other hand, if I first pass mile marker 43 on the way to mile marker 82, and in a couple miles I pass mile marker 41, I can ascertain that either I’m traveling in the wrong direction or traveling on the wrong road. That, then, makes the milestone helpful to know where I am in light of where I’m attempting to go.
In a similar sense, when we lead projects in business, oftentimes we break down the overall deliverable for which the project is undertaken into smaller steps, and along the way, milestones. In the same way, these serve to provide us feedback about where we are in the project in light of where we’re going in terms of trying to complete the project. That milestone could be rendered in terms of time (a deadline) or in terms of finance (a budget). But it’s incredibly important to allow the milestones to provide input about progress and direction.
Applying that to life, leadership, and our faith journey, we see that just as God used milestones in Elijah’s and Elisha’s lives, and in the manner in which he used milestones through the history of the kings and judges of Israel, He uses milestones in our lives. That is, He allows us periodic opportunities to judge where we are (in our walk with Him) in light of where we’re going (hopefully becoming more and more aligned to the likeness of His Son).
Those situations – those milestones – can take the form of situations in our lives that He uses to carry out that Christlikeness He desires for us. The question isn’t where we were, or where we are, but where God is taking us through those milestone situations. I can say without hesitation that the journey I’ve been on in the 18 years I’ve been walking with Christ has afforded me multitudes of milestones, and earlier in the journey it was clear that I was not far along. Clearly I haven’t arrived at whatever destination He’s got intended for me, but I can see the difference in the mile marker I am at now, and the previous mile marker at which I was formerly. That’s not to toot my own horn – trust me, I don’t deserve to in any way – but it’s to toot His.
God designs our journey, and He alone provides the mile markers along the way. When we go through struggles and trials, even those of our own making, let’s remember it as simply a milestone, a way that He is allowing us to see where we are in light of where we’re going. The fact is, we’re all journeying … we’re all going from a starting point to an end. And while the milestones aren’t always enjoyable, they are always instructive. They are always important feedback to allow us to figure out if we’re heading in the wrong direction, or if we’re even on the wrong road. My prayer for all of us this week is that we’ll start to see milestones as the blessing they are.
Soli Deo gloria!