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On Your Mark

Life’s Surprising Twists

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. (Mark 5:1,2, NIV)

Sometimes you end up at a place you did not plan to go.

It was that way with the disciples. On the northwestern corner of the Lake of Galilee, Jesus had said, “Let us go over to the other side” (4:35). They probably figured they could hug the shoreline, sail a few miles, and then end up on the northeastern edge of the lake where a number of them had their homes, Bethsaida.

But the wind blew them off course, and they hit the shore several miles southeast of Bethsaida at Gerasa (or Gadara).

I’ve been blown off course in life a few times myself.

I graduated from seminary in California at the age of 23. I was single and didn’t know how I could “break in” to a ministerial position. The only thing I could land was a 10-week job as a youth counselor at a camp in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. I had no idea what I would do after that post.

I wrote to a string of pastors between California and Pennsylvania, asking if I could show Teen Challenge movies in their churches and preach. A few responded positively, and I laid out an itinerary for my VW Beetle that took me in a zigzag fashion from the West Coast to Wyoming, down to Kansas and Arkansas, and up through Indiana and Ohio. One of the churches cancelled just before I set out, forcing me to reroute through Springfield, Mo.

I drove onto the campus of my alma mater, Evangel College (now University), and walked down to the dean’s office to say hello. He looked at me and asked me if I wanted to teach that fall. I immediately agreed, and he hired me.

I came to work that fall, promptly met my wife, and the rest is history. The family I have today and the ministry I do all proceeded from an at-the-time unwelcome cancellation. Thank God for closed doors — it means He’s opening a door you don’t see!

A lifelong direction resulted from a course correction I did not engineer.

Sometimes Jesus takes us to places we did not intend to end up. We want to go, as did the disciples, to a familiar place where we know our friends and family. But we find ourselves in places we’ve never been, working in situations we did not choose, or living in a neighborhood not of our desire.

It must have been a shock when the disciples found themselves in Gerasene land. It’s likewise a shock when we find ourselves where we had no intention of going or wished we did not have to remain.

But on the other side of the lake is a person who needed the Lord’s help. From the shoreline, he had watched as the boat drew near. Now he races to the waterline to welcome Jesus.

The incident became a life lesson for the disciples. Contrary winds would sometimes take them where they had no intention of going — but the Lord knew someone desperately needed their presence, help and the good news they carried.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, You direct my itinerary, and Your stops often surprise me. I ask, “Why did You take me here? Why not carry me where I am most comfortable, cared for, and at home?” But if You landed me here then it’s because You have someone who needs me. Help me, Lord, to be content today where I am.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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