I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good with directions. I know…I know…most guys think that, but ask my wife, she’ll tell you it’s true. Even in a new city I can usually find my way around pretty quickly. I can always figure out north, south, east and west and get my bearings. And before you ask, I was like this before we had GPS and smartphones.
The trick, you see, is keeping my eyes and mind on the destination, the place we’re heading, and not letting other things get in between me and that goal. Keep the main thing the main thing, if you will. And that works, most of the time.
For most of my life, and all of my kid’s life, we have made a periodic journey to visit family in Oklahoma. I’ve made that trip more times than I can count, but one thing I know: I have never just taken my time and enjoyed the journey. For the most part, my mind was set on the unspoken gauntlet that all of my family has thrown down, the gauntlet of “who can make it the quickest.” For what it’s worth, I had the record in hand during college…only to have my alternator go out 2 hours from Oklahoma City. That’s a technicality. But I digress.
The trip along I-40 is 1200 miles through some of the most beautiful country in the world. We pass through western NC and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It goes across the entire length of Tennessee, from the beauty of the Smokies, the glam of Nashville, until crossing the mighty Mississippi. Then there’s Arkansas. I’ll leave that there, although they have finally finished most of their road projects, and there is a Taco Bueno in Conway, which is definitely a redeeming factor. Finally, you cross into Oklahoma and through the Ozark mountains (hills, really) and onto the majesty of the Great Plains.
Most of this I experienced only through the windshield or in brief pit stops over the years. I saw it, but I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t take it in. I would usually make the trip straight through (18 plus hours of it) only stopping as needed. If we had 7 days to spend, then 2 of them would be spent driving out and back, two of them would be spent recovering from the drive, and 3 would be spent with family. I jest…but only sort of.
Until this last trip. For the first time in my life, I had no timetable, no urgent occasion to arrive for, and nothing we had to get back in a hurry to. It was literally open- ended (I have never, ever traveled like that before). We decided to take our time, to see the sights, to “stop and smell the roses”, only it was late January, so there were no roses…speaking figuratively, you see. We took our kids to see Chimney Rock in NC. It was closed, but we skipped rocks in the river and sipped coffee in pretty much the most beautiful surroundings you can imagine.
We took in the lights of Nashville and showed my boy the home of the Nashville Predators (his new favorite hockey team…sorry Hurricanes). We walked around historic Franklin, TN on an insanely cold and blustery day, showing our kids the places their folks had visited a month before. We had a good portion of the Natchez Trace parkway to ourselves, and as we drove along it I marveled at the size of this wilderness so close to Nash-Vegas. We stopped at the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, housed inside the Pyramid in Memphis, and Si and I rode the elevator to the top (see pic above), and gazed out on the wonder of the Mississippi. Even Arkansas looked pretty from there.
The whole trip only took 2 days, but it was so much more fun, more relaxed, and more enjoyable than any we had made before. All because we decided to make the most of the journey and not get so hung up on “getting there.”
Hmmmmm….application? A big smack upside the head.
On the bigger journey we’re on, it was a reminder not to get so hung up on the place we end up that we forget to take in all the amazing things happening along the way. It’s incredible easy for me to elevate our destination to the ultimate goal, but when I do that, I miss what Jesus is doing in and for us today. The big picture can make me forget the little things that are happening along the way. It’s easy to forget that all those things we go through in our lives, every little leg of our journeys, is designed to drive us to Jesus, to show us His glory, to show us His wonder, His power, His goodness…His love. In the big and the small, the routine and the extraordinary, the triumphs and the trials, we are being shaped and formed, molded into the image of Jesus. Paul, wrote to the church throughout Galatia:
“Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” (Galatians 4:19, NLT)
And that’s what I meant when I said the journey is the destination…sort of. Christ fully formed in us…that’s the real destination, the one I’m looking for, but it happens one day, one hour, one moment at a time. When I get in a hurry, I’m liable to miss Him, just like I missed all those sights along I-40 for years.
Now, let me be honest: We cannot WAIT to find out where we are going. It would not be a stretch to say there is not one hour of any day that goes by in which we are not thinking of where we’ll end up, talking about it with our kids, day-dreaming of it, or praying about it. With each passing day, the tendency to dwell on it increases, the longing for a home grows, the intense desire to finally be there, wherever there is.
The waiting, however hard it is, is not the worst thing. Even if we have to continue on waiting (Lord, please don’t let that be, though!), the worst thing that could happen to us would be to find out where we’re going, to get, and to think “this is it! We have arrived!” For us to get to that point and miss Jesus…that would be the worst thing.
So we’re learning to take each day, each moment as the Lord brings it (thanks Ms. Deb for that reminder!), trying our best not look too far ahead, but at the same time keeping the end goal in sight. And just like that trip to OKC, it’s so much better this way.