“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV)
The word “marked” really stood out to me the other day when I read this verse. I do not do this with every verse, but I decided to look up the word in the original Greek. The transliteration of the word is prokeimai. This word in the Greek means, “to lie before the view, i.e. (fig.) to be present (to the mind), to stand forth (as an example or reward):–be first, set before (forth).” For the longest time, one of my favorite phrases to pray in the Scripture is the first part of Psalms 16:8. It reads, “I have set the Lord always before me.” He goes before me. He paves the way. He open and shuts doors. He is the God who goes first. He is the God that, no matter how lost or forgotten or ill-placed you may feel, no matter how few connections you may think you have, with one word or twitch of his nose (remember the real old show, Bewitched), all can change.
Here is what really touched my heart regarding this word, marked. I believe it is pretty clear that I am not the one marking my path. Nor am I the one expected to mark out my path. If there is no God, one must create one’s own path. The same principle applies to ethics. If there is no God, there is no way to philosophically justify any reference to objective, universal values. All is subjective, whether that be ethical subjectivism, emotivism, or or cultural relativism (official names of theories). If there is not a God, a person is on their own, with all of the angst and pressure that comes with such a predicament, to create something out of life. The weight is on your shoulders. But if there is a God, which Christians clearly believe, then one does not create one’s own path (or moral code for that matter), but rather, one discovers it. In other words, one, the One, has gone before us and marked out a path. It already exists. What else would Paul be referring to in Ephesians 2:10 when he wrote concerning the future, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In advance? He has gone in front of you. He is not looking at you saying, “Pick any path, and I will bless you.” Rather, he is looking at you saying, “I have already laid (word is in the Greek definition) before you a specific path that you are created to walk. I am a specific God that has created you for specific purposes.” To borrow from the Greek mentioned earlier, our job is to allow this path to become present, to stand forth. God has marked out for you a path that only your feet will fit. Don’t fool yourself. Do not get too relaxed with notions of destiny and purpose. Just because we toss these words out like candy at a parade does not mean we know what we are talking about. Stop. Pause. Reflect. Dig a little deeper. Discover. You are not called to be your own god. Your path is something to be found, to be discovered, not made. It is tucked away in God’s heart. God has done this on purpose. You cannot find your path without seeking Him. Granted, God will call upon your creativity as you walk his path, but the path is his choosing. Solomon wrote, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:1).
Jean-Paul Sartre, the face of existentialism, was an atheist. In a Godless universe, all is absurd. There are no meta-narratives, no story true for all people in all places at all times (according to his view). His famous statement is, “Existence precedes essence.” He was saying that in the absence of God, there is no meaning waiting for us. One exists and only later decides, with much angst, who he or she will be and what path one will take. This is the person’s essence. But for Christians, we are called to believe the opposite: “Essence precedes Existence.” God has already “marked” out a path for us. Essence is already given. Did God not tell Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). So pray, fast, dig, wait, and enjoy the discovery process. Find your pre-furnished essence and live it up! And remember, quite often it will come to you, via revelation, in pieces. Enjoy the ride.