Which Direction - The Message
18 Apr 2024

Which Direction

With so much competing for our time and attention it can be easy to get distracted and start heading in the wrong direction. Sarah Small, Head of Eden, challenges each of us to check which way we’re headed.

‘When I got married, my new in-laws blessed us with a sat nav. They said it had significantly reduced the number of arguments they had in the car together and wanted to help us experience similar travelling harmony! All was well until the night I was home alone and, from somewhere in my lounge, I heard a disembodied voice telling me to ‘turn right’ and ‘make a U-turn!’ I was absolutely terrified and not at all happy to be given these directions.

‘Sat navs have come on a lot since then and work well most of the time. As long as we tell them where we want to go and then follow the instructions, we’ll reach our destination! I often wish it was so straightforward in the rest of life – we set a course and then receive regular instructions about how to get there. 

‘I’ve been serving on an Eden team on a council estate for over 12 years, and every now and then I wonder, ‘Am I in the right place?’, ‘What direction should I be taking?’, ‘Where is the destination I have in mind?’ As I contemplate the answers, I find great help in the familiar teaching of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40. 

‘‘Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ 

‘Two seemingly simple commands: love God and love your neighbour. Both helpful when it comes to checking our direction. Against these measures we can ask, ‘Are our actions, activities and attitudes moving us closer to God?’ and similarly, ‘Are they causing us to get closer to people too?’ If not, then we need to check our direction of travel. 

‘It’s all about proximity. Proximity is a word that helps us to understand the direction of travel as moving toward, getting close to and being near. If we look at Jesus’ work on earth, he sets us a great example. John 1:14 in the Message translation says ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’ 

‘Jesus left the glory of heaven, the direct presence of his father and his rightful place to move into the neighbourhood. He did this to gain proximity to his people – to demonstrate a counter-cultural way of life and ultimately to redeem all creation. 

‘If we look back to the Garden of Eden, we see that God was in direct proximity to his people – they walked together in the cool of the garden. But after the fall, the people hid from God – they moved away from him and ultimately were sent from the garden. Their proximity was broken. Mistrust, fear and distance crept into what had been a perfect relationship. 

‘If I’m honest sometimes I can see these attitudes creeping into my life. I can find myself asking, ‘Is God really good?’, ‘Can I really trust him?’ and ‘If he really knew what I was like, how could he possibly love me?’ I’m sure I’m not alone in asking these questions. And it’s OK to ask them, but the risk is that if we conclude that he’s not good or trustworthy, or he doesn’t love me, then this causes us to drift away from God, out of proximity with him. We can quickly find ourselves going in the wrong direction. 

At times, it can be sobering to note where my heart is at with loving my neighbour too. Even though I live in geographical proximity to them, am I actually spending time investing in relationships, seeing people discipled and loved? When my attitude is around seeking my own comfort and convenience, it’s directly challenged by the call to proximity. Proximity involves cost, inconvenience, time and energy. 

I’m inspired by the hope that we find in Revelation 21:3-5. ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 

We have a God who longs to be in full proximity to us, as we are in proximity with one another. That’s the eternal aim. It’s our destination. So, let’s check our directions – are we moving nearer to God and nearer to people? That’s the way to go. 


Listen to more teaching on our podcast here.

And if you want to be encouraged into proximity with God and one another, come along to our Proximity Conference between Friday 14 – Saturday 15 June. Book your place today here.