My youngest grandson, River the Peacemaker, just turned 2 years old. From the time he wakes up until he goes to sleep, he is wagging his little tongue as fast as he can. His speech brings a smile to this old man’s heart as he talks without a full set of words. “Where you go?!” he will yell when I walk away instead of the proper “Where are you going?”
I shouldn’t be too hard on this little boy; my Spanish is much like his English. Everybody understands what we’re saying, but they smile at the way we say it. I’ve also been with teenagers who talk this way, except they might add a “Yo!” “Yo!, Where you go, Brother Walker?”
I have spent most of my life equipping and training students. One of my favorite activities as a youth pastor was camp. From the time I was a youth myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the culture of church camps. It’s a time to be away from your parents; it’s a time to hang out with your friends; it’s a time to study God’s Word, and it’s a time to meet people of the opposite sex.
Growing up in Missouri, you didn’t tell people what city you came from but what county. We had county fairs, county 4-H Clubs, a county courthouse, a county jail and a county Christmas parade. Almost everything was somehow connected to our county.
I don’t know how this thought become prevalent among campers, but it was rumored that the best-looking girls or guys are from another county, and the further they had to drive, the better-looking they were. As the buses rolled into camp and the doors opened, spilling out a group of hormonally imbalanced teenagers to be greeted by another group of hormonally imbalanced teenagers, the first question you heard was, “Where you from?” We knew all of the youth in our county, but if we didn’t recognize the newcomers, we needed to know how far they’d traveled. If you said, “Linn County,” which was 27 miles away, you were a keeper.
I’ve realized these two questions capture two important things to know about your life: “Where you from?” and “Where you going?”
I have been working on my “Where you from?” My great-grandfather was living in Ireland during the famous Potato Famine of 1845-1852. Over 1 million people had died, and 2 million had fled the country. In 1848, in the midst of this devastation a 9-year-old Irish boy, John P. Scott, boarded a ship by himself to make the dangerous journey to America. Anywhere from 20-50 percent of the passengers died during the 12-week journey. In fact, they nicknamed these ships the “Coffin Ships” due to the high mortality rate.
Scott arrived safely in Pittsburgh and was received by a grandfather who had made the journey earlier. That little boy went on to marry and have seven children. The next to the youngest was a son, Walker Scott, my namesake and grandfather. Walker is an Irish name that derives from the word for someone who walked on and stomped out the impurity of the wool so that it could be presented without blemish to the master tailor.
When John P. Scott died, his obituary read “Baptist, A man who had a living faith.” As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know … the rest of the story.” The more I know where I came from, the more my identity is clarified. I have friends who were adopted and now, in their 40s, want to know where they came from. Their journey isn’t about rejecting their adoptive parents but trying to find their roots.
Jesus knew where he was from. When the Pharisees were taunting Him that His story wasn’t true, He responded by saying, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14a).
Jesus told us where he was going. In Matthew 16, He explained to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. There, he would be killed and raised on the third day. He was telling them about His destiny. The reason He came to live as a man was so we could have life and life abundantly. When he yelled, “It is finished” on the cross, the crossroads of where we came from and where we are going connected us to a holy and eternal God.
I am still learning about where I came from, but I am sure about where I am going. If you don’t know where you are going, follow Jesus. He will show you the way.