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
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
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
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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