Growing up, our family enjoyed taking long drives through the countryside. Sounds strange, I know, but when you’re poor and have basic cable, it’s either that or C-Span most Saturday afternoons. We drove to see the buds bursting forth in their flowery glory each spring. We drove to experience the wonder of the phoenix song that is fall in the Midwest, as the leaves burst into fiery shades of color before falling from the trees. We drove to see the water pour forth from Truman Dam, as the Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates after summer rains. One winter, as we were driving home from my grandparent’s house in the Ozark, we saw the after-effects of an ice storm, and I marveled at the crystalline world outside.
Our long drives were not relegated just to weekend entertainment. My parents worked hard to avoid the major highways and Interstates on any road trip. “You don’t see anything on the Interstate!” was the refrain I heard time and time again. And so, we drove through the countryside on two-lane state highways and out-of-the-way county roads, stopping at every roadside attraction and mom and pop gas station along the way. While the teenage me would roll my eyes every time my dad pointed out some long-forgotten obscure Civil War signpost, the adult me understands that my being took shape along the curves and hills of those two-lane roads.
My dad was a storyteller. And, as we drove miles and miles to see trees bud or sample cheese curds at Osceola Cheese, he shared stories with us about his childhood. He weaved these epic tales about mischief he and his friends got into, about Sunday dinners at his Grandma Polly’s, family camping trips on the James River, long summer days spent on his Uncle Paul’s farm. There were stories about growing up in Kansas City…buying chips out of the back door of Bryant’s barbecue, watching a baseball game at Municipal Stadium, working at his parent’s diner, playing baseball for East High School. On those drives, I learned who I was, where I had come from, and the spirit of all of the people who lived within me.
We talked about other things too, faith, politics, dreams and goals. The time in the car opened up something between us. Our drives were a sacred space in which we laughed, teased, debated, and even argued our way through a myriad of topics. There was freedom as we drove, freedom to just be. I remember one summer drive down a two-lane country highway in the Ozarks, windows down, my dad’s favorite Janis Joplin tape blaring from the cassette player, the station wagon winding its way to my grandparent’s house while we sang “Me and Bobby McGee” over and over again.
My friends, I think we’re taking the long way round right now. Like the people in Isaiah, we are blind and walking down a road we don’t know. Our lives have diminished to this one time, this one place. We can’t think about tomorrow, because tomorrow seems too unreal. We’re at the start of a tall incline–in the middle of a sharp curve. But, as I learned from our family drives, there is so much to be gained from taking the long way. If we commit, truly commit, to this road we are on right now, what might we learn? What insights about ourselves might we come to? What new understandings of God might we experience? How might God work within us to bring us closer to him, and to help us become more the person he designed us to be and less who we think we should be? How might our families and communities be changed if we embrace this road God is leading us down…if we allow him to direct us each day to the work he wants us to do?
The world is living in darkness now, but God will bring it light. And we have a part to play in that process. We are the light-bringers! We are a lamp that is lit with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. His Spirit works within us to keep our light burning, even in the darkness. It’s our job during this time of fear and tragedy to shine on! But, we can’t do that if we’re not connected to the source of our light. Now, more than ever, we need to connect to God through Scripture, through prayer, through individual and corporate (online) worship. We need to give God the wheel as we drive along this road, and we need to listen to Him as he tells us who we are, where we came from, and what plans he has for our future. Because there is a future, both here on Earth and in Gods’s great Kingdom. Like all roads, there is a destination to which we are headed. We’ll get there, but let’s commit to showing up better than we were before.
This week, let’s commit to taking the long way round. Let’s embrace the journey, and open ourselves to listening for God’s direction. Here’s a final verse to take with you today. As always…I pray for you blessings and peace.