There's nothing at all romantic in a story about a guy who flies from one location to the other, checks luggage, falls asleep watching in-flight movies, eats peanuts from a tiny bag, and arrives at his destination, stiff and jetlagged, but none the worse for the wear.
But change the method of transportation, and turn the story into a road trip across the country, full of small towns, creepy gas stations, seedy motels, and sing-alongs to the radio with the windows down, and you've got yourself something worth reading.
Everyone needs a road trip now and again.
The slower pace of a multi-day trip on the road can serve to remind us that we occupy merely a tiny place in a great big world full of places we have not yet seen and discoveries we have not yet made.
A road trip can also make you more aware of the humanity and connectedness that we all share despite all the ways we have been driven farther apart these past several years. Let me explain...
Over the course of a couple of weeks, I traveled across several states, visited cities I'd never been to before, saw sites I'd never seen, listened to live music, visited museums, ate barbeque, went to breweries, sat near rivers, and in quiet parks, and even visited one of the largest shopping malls in the country.
I also made myself talk to people everywhere I went. You might think this is a no-brainer for someone who makes their living talking in front of people, but it's not. I am a bit of an introvert, to be honest, and visiting with strangers is a bit out of my comfort zone.
But I did it anyway. When I went to restaurants, I asked to sit at the bar so I'd be forced to speak to the bartender, and whoever happened to be sitting next to me.
I made myself speak to people when I was riding in elevators, in the lobby of museum visitor centres, standing in line for some good barbeque on a Sunday, and even when I was sitting outside a cigar shop puffing a particularly good stogie.
I tried to avoid talking about politics or religion (unless they asked me what I did for a living). Instead, I talked to people about the city or the town I was visiting, got tips on the places to go, listened to their stories, and even shared a bit of my own.
I talked to people about the best places to eat, and why. I talked to people about sports---football, and basketball, and even a conversation or two about baseball, and why my beloved Chicago Cubs imploded and traded away all their best players.
I talked to people about music, what they were listening to and why. I learned about the best places to listen to Blues on Beale Street in Memphis, and where the best Jazz bands were playing on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
A police officer in Memphis, who sat at the bar next to me in the Blues Street Cafe, told me her life story while I ate some of the best ribs in town. I met a couple from San Antonio outside Sun Studios, and we talked about blues music for a good half hour.
There was a guy in a brewery in Little Rock who told me all about the city, and how he'd seen it grow. He shared with me his insider knowledge on the best food in the brewery, which beers he'd take home if he were me, and gave me a primer on what he did for a living (real estate investment).
Here's the thing, as much as I wish we could go back in time to have the chance of a do-over, we can't. All the things that have happened over the past several years that drove so many of us apart, can't be changed.
But we don't have to live in the past. That's not what God wants for us.
In a passage of Scripture that I preached from recently, Jesus even indicates that God is already present and preparing a place for us in the future. We are not meant to dwell on what's happened, we are meant to live into the promise of what is to come. This is at the heart of the true meaning of eternal life.
I recently read an amazing line from Toni Morrison's novel Beloved that resonated with me deeply. It's the kind of quote that we need to share with one another now more than ever.
Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.
May you discover the unifying spirit that comes from connection---even with those with whom you have deep disagreements. May you embody Christ, and may Christ be embodied to you. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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