“You Can’t Get There From Here”

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Once upon a time there once was a guy who stopped at a gas station on a lonely Texas road, and asks a wizened old geezer sitting outside the store, drinking a beer and smoking his corncob pipe, a question about how to get to a certain town. “You can’t get there from here,” the old codger replied.

I can relate to this answer. Sometimes I want to achieve something, like a mental destination, but I come to realize, I can’t get there from here. I then feel as frustrated as the traveler on the Texas road. For instance, even though I taught interpersonal communication for decades, there are certain people I cannot communicate with, and it seems there’s a voice inside of me saying, You can’t get there from here.

Have you ever felt this way?  Maybe some years ago you set out on a path to becoming rich but it didn’t work out. You finally realized, “No way is this ever going to happen!” You can’t get there from here.

Or maybe you set out on a path to secure your children’s future by working overseas so you could pay their college tuition, but it didn’t work out: they went their own way, and ended up like orphans, far from you, and even your marriage took an awful beating. You can’t get there from here.

In the Old Testament we read repeated stories of the Israelites wandering from Yahweh’s path and directions, given to them again and again, especially through the prophets: Don’t go there, even though the cult prostitutes and the pagan rituals which supposedly will give your crops fertile and make your families flourish are very tempting. But in going there again and again, even some of their kings leading them into sacrificing their first-born children to appease or bribe gods like Baal and Astarte, they “sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind,” (Hosea 8: 7) and found themselves taken into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians. I can imagine a prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah telling them, “I told you repeatedly, You can’t get there from here! Repent; start over with a whole new way of thinking about God, fertility, true worship, justice and the needs of the poor, the orphans and widows around you.

In the New Testament we read the charming story of Zaccheus, in Luke 19. The Sunday School song goes, “Zaccheus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, the Lord he wanted to see. But the Lord said, Zaccheus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today. And he did. . .” Zaccheus was a wealthy chief tax collector, who being short, climbed a tree to see over the crowds, Jesus. But it’s as if Jesus said to him, Zach, that’s not how to see me, you can’t get there from here! But then Zacheus got it: he did see Jesus, as evidenced by his saying “Look, Lord! I here and now give half of my possessions to the poor; and if I have cheated anybody anything I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus was so impressed that he said, Today salvation has come to this house. . . .

A new starting point.

So, how is one to get there from here? (I.e., find salvation.) This story gives a clue, and a similar clue is found in John 12, in the story about some Greeks “who want to see Jesus.” When Jesus is told this, he doesn’t walk over to them and say, “O.K., here I am,” he says something almost strange: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates (i.e., loves it far less) in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will be also. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

In other words, This is what it means to “see Jesus”!

“You can’t get there from here” implies we need to turn around or back up, way back, start over, be “born again”—Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3: 3.)

As the Texas traveler had to go back and find a new starting point, I need to think differently, and prayerfully, about communicating with family or anyone. (I remember someone saying “It’s more important to talk to God about people than to talk to people about God.”)    And we all need to think differently and prayerfully about anything we want, in our old fleshly nature, because when we leave God out of our thinking and dreaming and planning, we will experience nothing but frustration—We can’t get there from here.

But if we come to the Cross, the place where love and justice meet, and let Jesus in to give us a new start, and forgive us for trying to chart our own course and live our lives on our terms, we will get more than a glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven, we’ll see we can get there, the only place worth aspiring to, anyway. We will see and know Jesus, the WAY to truth and life, and our eternal destination (John 14).

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