Successful Living

Successful Living > The Quest > Introduction To The Quest

The Quest

The Quest for Fulfillment, Joy and Eternity

By Dr. Monte Wilson, III

"No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demigods which would bear you through this stream; but only at the cost of yourself: you would put yourself in pawn and lose yourself. There exists in the world a single path along which no one can go except you: whither does it lead? Do not ask; go along it. Who was it who said: a man never rises higher than when he does not know whither his path can still lead him?"

- Oliver Cromwell

I remember once waiting for an elevator at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. My friend and I watched a group of people get on the elevator leading to the penthouse. The door closed before we could get on, so we waited for the next ride. In only seconds, the elevator opened again with the same people still standing on board. They evidently were in a deep trance, because it hadn't occurred to them that they hadn't moved.

Just for fun, we thought we'd stand there and see what these people did. The door closed again, and in seconds it reopened. The people still didn't notice that they hadn't moved, and they also hadn't realized that they needed a special key to use this particular elevator, as it went to the penthouse.

Right before the doors closed a third time, I caught the door with my foot and stood there, staring at these five people. "Hey," I said, "Have you all realized that you have yet to leave the first floor.that the elevator hasn't moved?"

They looked bewildered and asked me if I knew why this was. I said, "You didn't notice that this elevator was only for people going to the penthouse?" They turned red with embarrassment and ran out of the elevator. Not only had they not moved, they didn't know they hadn't moved. And they certainly didn't know they were on the wrong elevator.

As I went up on the elevator, I thought about these people and how they'd acted like so many others I've seen driving in traffic or walking through malls. They're numb to their surroundings, dead to the fact that they aren't really going anywhere; although their eyes are open, they're blind to what's happening all around them.

Many of us can identify with such people, for we too once walked through life unknowingly. For more years than we care to remember, we stood in elevators and watched the doors opening and closing and didn't even acknowledge that we weren't going anywhere. Then something happened that awakened us, and we realized that there had to be more to life than watching doors opening and closing, that there had to be a reason for our existence.

Being touched by such grace is the beginning of the Quest. Maybe you were touched while in church, or awakened during an illness or a business failure. Maybe your heart opened while you were reading a book. Let me tell you how it happened with me.

As a child, I loved Arthurian literature. Stories of Arthur and Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table stirred me. I daydreamed about fighting dragons, rescuing damsels in distress, upholding the code of chivalry. The legend that began to awaken me involved Arthur and his knights sitting at the Round Table, waiting for their meal. Arthur was concerned that his men were getting a bit soft, losing the sense of purpose and mission that had forged them together years before. Finally, he announced that they were not going to eat until something magical occurred, something that would stir them once again.

After a while, the Holy Grail, the Chalice of Christ, appeared before them, hovering in the air. As it floated above, the men were in absolute awe; stunned by the miraculous presence. Once the Grail disappeared, it was agreed upon that they would all go on a quest to find this Chalice.

But one of the men said something that would shape my life from that day forward. He remarked that while they most definitely should go on the Quest, it would be ignoble if they went together as a group. No, what they each must do is make his own way. And then, as the story is told, each Knight went to the deepest, darkest part of the forest he could find, a location where there were no other paths, and there at the spot each discovered, he would enter and begin his Quest.

They went on the same Quest, for the same Holy Grail, from the same forest, but they began on different paths. So it is for each of us. We were touched by the same God, the same grace, and sent on a Quest to become those individuals whom God created us to become. Our stories have many similarities, but at the same time, they are quite unique.

You: The Hero

In John's Revelation , he writes that when we arrive in heaven we will each be given a white stone with our name written on it-a name no one knows but God (2:17). This is your Quest. You are becoming that name. Your life is a living letter, an evolving story. You are the central character in your story: You are its hero.

As the story begins, imagine your therapist has diagnosed you as being "delusional." You constantly speak of needing to go somewhere you have never been, of seeing faraway places in your mind's eye, of feeling out of place, like you don't fit in your surroundings. It's not a physical place you are looking for, but a metaphysical one. You constantly are being overwhelmed by the feeling that another you is inside you, struggling within to reveal him or herself. And what makes the story really interesting is this: You have amnesia. And hearing that a certain doctor out there can help you, you've come to this person for counsel.

During one of your sessions, your therapist mentions this fabulous, unbelievable tale. She doesn't believe it's true, but she thinks it might offer a helpful metaphor. It appears that there is a King who lives on top of a mountain who knows you and knows your name. Your challenge will be to get to the top of the mountain.

At the bottom of the mountain is a raging and very strange fire. At the beginning of the path, the fire is an external blaze that's excruciatingly painful and difficult to get through. However, once you struggle past it, the fire is absorbed into your soul, where it will then empower you for the rest of your journey. This endeavor will include finding lost treasures, slaying dragons and encountering many strange and mysterious things. The journey will end with God Himself giving you your name: a name that utterly and comprehensively defines, explains and expresses who you've become during and through your Quest.

Steps Along the Ancient Path

At the beginning of your journey you'll need courage and acceptance. It will take incredible courage to leave the path that you've been traveling. So many people had plans for you-you even had your own plans. But now all bets are off, and you have no idea where this new path will lead.

For a while, many of the people around you will seek to bring you back to the old path, to the old ways, to the familiar world that you've always lived in. It will take courage to maintain a gracious but firm "no" in the presence of all these well-intentioned people whose opinions have meant so much to you. But this is a journey that will demand incredible bravery to persevere through, so it's good that the very first lesson you'll learn has to do with courage.

When Abraham was called out by God and told to leave his home without yet being informed what his destination was to be, he needed courage filled with faith to pick up and leave home. But he did just that, and in so doing, he foreshadowed how it was to be for all who chose to make this ancient journey.

You and Your Path are Unique

As "turning" a new leaf takes courage, it also demands acceptance. You have to accept who you are in the present, as well as where you are along your unique path. Don't compare yourself with who or where anyone else is. Don't compare yourself to who you hope to be or where you hope to be along the path years from now. Start out content with where you are right now.

Accept yourself and move on!

Getting all worked up over your weaknesses or over how far you have to travel will only serve to make yours a more difficult journey. Say to yourself, "This is who I am, warts and all. I accept myself, while I'm also committed to growing and maturing. This is where I am. I don't want to stay here, but I accept that "here" is where I must start my journey."

Blaise Paschal, French philosopher and mathematician, wrote in his book, Pensees, that people were both the glory and the rubbish of the universe. One of the first evidences of having matured a bit is the balancing or the integration of these two realities in how we perceive ourselves. We have been created by God-fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet we also have strayed from the path He desires for us, and we have been corrupted and damaged by our waywardness.

The young pilgrim who has just begun his journey can be overwhelmed at seeing his rubbish, by seeing how strong his pride and ego have become. But to deny what we see or to set down and indulge in self-pity won't help us along the way or serve our Quest at all. What we must strive to say is: "I see my rubbish. I accept that I have produced this and will immediately begin cleaning my life up. I will not define myself by my rubbish, but by my Quest."

Our journey is hindered when we indulge in remorse or self-pity. Such indulgence only causes us to focus solely on where we were and upon who we were until now. If you see things in your life that must be accounted for, then make an accounting. If you've wronged someone, go and ask their forgiveness. If you owe them something, pay it back. If you can't pay it back, ask forgiveness for this-and then move on.

The word "remorse" comes from the Latin word "moray," which means "death." "Re-moray" is to feed on death. It is a useless emotion and only serves to keep us focused on our old selves, rather than on the path before us. A good way to combat this is to think: Yes, you messed up, you erred-now deal with it and move on.

And here is something else to think about:

You are also the glory of the universe, and you should also accept this. As C.S. Lewis once said, no one has ever met a "mere" mortal. We are all sons and daughters of well as potential demons! We are glory and rubbish. By beginning your journey, you have decided to start throwing out the trash and polishing the glory!

Your Glory

You are not the glory of the universe because you made yourself this way; it is God who created you. It is on the glory of your creator, of the Master Artist, that you are to increasingly reflect. The ego will fight to keep you tied up in your old self , by either causing you to focus on nothing but your rubbish and eliciting self-pity, or by tempting you to think you're the author of your glory, and that everyone's rubbish stinks but yours. Resist these ego traps . The burden of both of these attitudes will only keep you from the path.

A motive that says, "This journey is all about me, about my great glory," will not allow you to progress on the path. Your motive for taking the path is love for God and love for the gift of life . Being grateful for our beings and for our opportunities to enjoy as much as possible of what God's creation has to offer stokes the fire within. Being centered on protecting the ego's self-centered illusions? That's one of the things that will be burned away by the fire at the bottom of the mountain.

The path is leading to greater awareness of who God is, greater awareness of the mysteries of creation. The ancient path that you now travel is not primarily about you, but about God and all that has been created by God - and discovering who you are as a unique part of God's creation is one of the great side benefits.

You and God