Last Sunday's evening worship used this phrase, from the end of John's gospel, as its title. The guts of the input was a summary of the story of one German pastor who was imprisoned by the Russians at the end of World War II and forced to go 'where he did not want to go.' It was an interesting account of a steadfast, simple faith, that survived despite incredible hardship.
Someone will take you by the hand and lead you where you do not want to go... these words, spoken to Peter on the lakeside by Jesus formed part of a reading I used in Sunday morning worship last September. At the time I was very struck by them, as I was about to go where I did not want to go, at least in a metaphorical sense.
I can honestly say I have never questioned why I had to have cancer, or even why it happened when it did (though I did feel the timing was naff) and I was never angry with God or questioned God's love or existence. I had to go where I did not want to go, so I might as well get on with it.
Looking back, and beginning to reflect, this unchosen, unwanted, journey has brought me and others to a new place, and given us opportunity to gain insights we might not otherwise have discovered.
I have learned to let other people help me - not an easy lesson for someone who has spent her entire life being independent and self-sufficient. Sometimes to retain our independence we need to be a little bit dependent.
I think my church has gained confidence in its ability to support a minister during a time of trial. Churches can easily have their corporate confidence knocked, and sometimes adversity, handled well, enables them to gain new, or renewed, confidence.
I think I have learned a whole heap of empathy - with those who look different, with those who have no hair, with those who are forbidden to eat certain things, with those who are forbidden to do certain things, with those who face an uncertain future. I don't think I really needed quite so many lessons in empathy all at once but now I've had them, I think I am a better equipped pastor. (That doesn't mean I think anyone else ought to experience any of them)
I think I have learned to be kinder to myself. I have always been a worrier, have always tended to beat myself up over the things I failed to do, or messed up, or whatever. That hasn't changed, but I think I let it get to me a little less than before... Well, I hope so, anyway. I hope I might have learned to say 'no' a bit more, and to make more time for myself.
I have found I am less tolerant of bigotry, of grudge-bearing, of finger-pointing, of bitterness, of scape-goating and so on. I don't think I've been guilty of them to any extent myself, but I have tended to let it go in others... Now I think I'm more likely to speak my mind (be warned!)
In a few areas of life, and on a few issues, I've stopped wrestling the head and heart and, atypcially, let my heart decide.
I have met many amazing people who have inspired me... kangaroo girl, J and Mrs J, and relatives of terminally ill people, to name but a few. Without this unchosen, unwanted journey, I wouldn't have known them.
I have had many wonderful conversations with people - about theodicy, about healing, about euthanasia, about my call to ministry - conversations I would never have had in the cosy confines of Christian leadership.
When you are old(er) someone will take you by the hand and lead you where you do not want to go...
I am technically (medically) young and that has its own significance in terms of the journey taken and its likely future direction, but I have been dragged onto a path I did not wish to follow. Of course I'd rather it hadn't happened, I'm not Pollyanna, but given that it did, I have no regrets. By accepting that I had to go this way, and by making the most of the opportunities it gave me, I feel I am now a more whole person, if a more broken and vulnerable person, than before.
In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.... even on the unchosen path that takes you where you don't want to go.... and I AM is with us always, to the end of the age (Romans, John, Matthew).