I am recognizing the continual presence of the ever-elusive “else” inside myself. Maybe it’s there for you, too. You might call it “more” or “other”, but it’s the same thing. The elusive “else” is that thing that’s out there, somewhere in the distance, that you can never quite get to.
It’s another opportunity.
It’s another contract.
It’s more money.
It’s increased exposure.
It’s more notoriety.
It’s greater fame.
It’s something else than what you’ve been given in life. If I’m honest, I think I spend a great deal of time either chasing after or fantasizing about that ever elusive else. And most of the time, I simply try to beat down that desire. I feed myself verses about contentment and satisfaction. I chide myself for my lack of satisfaction. I try and force myself to live in the present and be happy in the moment with what I’ve been given. All those disciplinary actions are appropriate, I guess, but I’m beginning to think that maybe the Lord has “something else” in store for my elusive else.
That’s the pattern I see in the life of Paul, specifically, right here:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
Notice how active and vigorous the verb is that Paul uses in verse 12 and 14. He says that he is pressing on. In verse 14 it has a competitive, athletic contest feel to it. Maybe Paul is thinking of the Olympic Games which would have been a familiar sight to the Greek Philippians. Those games were originally made up of footraces and in those races the athletes would have to strain at the end, pressing hard towards the goal. The verbs mean to pursue. They mean to run hard. They mean to focus your energy and your effort. In fact, they are so vigorous, so competitive, even so violent, that they can be translated persecute. It is the same verb, in fact, that Paul uses a participle of in verse 6 – persecuting the church.
It seems that Paul is saying that zeal, even to the point of obsession, is neutral. The question is not about zeal; it is about the object of that zeal and whether it is deserving of obsession. For the difference between Paul’s life then and Paul’s life now is not his level of addiction. If anything, he is more preoccupied now than he was then. The difference is that he has finally found something worth being addicted to. He has finally found something worth being obsessed with. He has finally found the proper direction for the elusive “else.”
That’s what redemption is, isn’t it? Isn’t it in a sense God redirecting our passion for one thing to something else? Isn’t it realizing that our pursuit of the elusive else isn’t wrong in and of itself; it’s just misguided. And by His grace, He’s redirecting it onto Himself.