(*My family used to take an expedition from Florida to Ohio nearly every year to visit relatives. For various reasons we haven’t kept that tradition with as much continuity over the past decade or so. Thankfully, they’ve started to come down and see us fairly frequently so that we still get to see them on a nearly annual basis. We won’t be traveling there this Summer but last year we had the opportunity to go up, though unexpectedly so. Hurricane Irma (Sister Irma as we’ve nicknamed the storm) came through and we evacuated to Ohio and got to see our precious relatives for a few days…In July of 2011 I wrote an article gleaning some spiritual lessons from these many road trips up North. With minor edits the work you see here is just as it originally appeared. Benji was 3 then, now he’s 10 (officially 10 ½ as he let me know this week!). My mamaw was living in Ohio then, now she’s REALLY living in Heaven! One of my aunt’s two little girls was saved then, both of those young ladies now know the Lord! My waistline was thin then and my hair was thick, now those two commodities have switched adjectives! But with all the things that may have changed in the past 7 years, our great God remains faithful down every road. I pray you enjoy this flashback.*)
My dad, mom, and I moved to Florida when I was 10. With much of our family still living up north, we began the tradition of going on an almost annual road trip to Ohio to see them. We’ve trekked up and down I-75 so many times that we know where the best places are to get gas, where all the White Castle Restaurants are located (did I just mention places where you can get gas?), where the most affordable motel rooms can be found, some key states to look out for the Highway Patrol, and some key cities not to hit at 5 in the afternoon. Getting ready for this year’s trip got me thinking about some lessons I’ve learned from the road north that are good lessons for the road of life when you are a child of God.
Lessons from the Back Seat…Dad did most of the driving in the early years of our travels from Florida to Ohio. I wasn’t old enough to drive then and mom, well she was old enough but, let’s just say, she wasn’t given too much opportunity! I “sat” in the backseat. I use the word “sat” loosely because mostly I laid down in the backseat and slept! If I tried to read, I would get sick. If I watched the scenery, I would get bored. If I watched dad’s driving, I would get scared! So, even though I wasn’t one to sleep for long periods of time, I trained myself to rest for about 15 of the 20 hours of the Ohio Road Trip. The only times you could be sure I would be awake on the road was when I was hungry for a hamburger or needed to go to the restroom!…There are times in life when we may be sick, sometimes we may be bored (although I find those moments are fewer and farther between as I get older), sometimes we may be scared, and almost all times we find ourselves not being in the driver’s seat! However, we have a Heavenly Father who is good, who can be trusted, who is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, and faithful! He’s got everything under control! So “sit” back (lay down if you’d like!) and rest soundly knowing that every need is supplied and you are in His care.
Lessons from the Front Seat…For the past several years of our excursions up north I’ve been the one doing the driving. Terry, mom, and dad all offer to take over so that I can rest. (I always tell them that I can rest better when I’m driving!) We don’t make the trip as fast now as we used to when I was a kid. Dad could drive all night, sleep a couple hours at a rest area, and then finish the journey. I can drive all day with no problem, but when the sun goes down I begin to get tired and need to pull over sometime before midnight to get a little shut eye at a motel. You see, when you’re in the front seat, you can’t sleep all day. You have responsibilities. You have to pay attention. It’s not all about you. You have to think about the welfare of your passengers. Have you double checked that it’s safe to pass? Are you looking in the rearview mirror to see if there are any crazy drivers coming up behind you? Did you watch the road signs closely enough to make sure that you’re on the right highway? Does somebody need to stop for a rest bit? Have you reached the limit of time you can safely continue driving before pulling over for the evening?…We do well to remember that we are not the only ones we need to consider when making decisions. Life is not all about us! The Lord is surely the One who is always in control, but through His providence we have God-given responsibilities that, when carried out according to His strength and wisdom, bring more fulfillment to our lives than we could have ever dreamed. The life spent on selfishness and self-centered concerns is an empty one indeed. The life invested in loving and serving God and loving and serving others is one filled with true abundance!
Lessons from the Journey…Before leaving on vacation, it takes about a week to get ready to go and a week to catch up when you get back. (I think I see a bunch of heads nodding and hear several “amen’s” being said right now!) Going on the trip is a big chore. Traveling is tiring. You measure your progress in mile markers. You see the sign for Cleveland, but just as you get a little excited you realize that it’s Cleveland, Tennessee instead of Cleveland, Ohio! Several hundreds of miles yet to go! However, in the midst of the long, arduous, seemingly never-ending journey, there are things to be enjoyed and not overlooked. I get to spend hours and hours holding the hand of my love, the best wife that anyone could ever ask for, as she sits next to me in the front seat. I get to look in the rearview mirror and gaze upon the precious boy the Lord has blessed us with. I get to see my sweet mom enjoy being the best grandmother a boy could ever hope to have as she plays with Benji in the backseat. I get to hear stories from my dad (assuming I can get him to come out of his shell!) that I wondered if I would ever get to hear again a few years ago as we sat at the foot of a hospital bed after he had a massive heart attack…Life can be tiring and tedious. Sometimes progress is slow and taxing. The destination that awaits us as believers is something to be longed for with great anticipation. However, don’t overlook the joy of the journey. As we serve the Lord, the Father of lights gives us every good and perfect gift to enjoy and for which to be grateful!
Lessons from the Destination…I remember pulling into mamaw’s and papaw’s driveway in Ohio after our long trip from Florida when I was a kid. Sis still lived with my grandparents at that time (she’s really my aunt but if I call her “Aunt Angie” that would be the last you would see of me!). When we called and let them know that we were close, she would begin looking out the window. When our car came into view, she’d run out of the house and welcome us with hugs and kisses. We crawled out of the vehicle and limped inside. As the blood began circulating and the numbness went out of our legs, we would find that mamaw had been hard at work. She had all of our favorites waiting for us in the kitchen—her famous macaroni vegetable soup was simmering on the stove, a freshly topped apple sauce cake lay on the counter, homemade cornbread was awaiting to go into the oven, and freshly cut potatoes were ready to take a plunge into a lard laden iron skillet. (Anyone getting hungry right about now!) Papaw was sitting in his blue rocking chair on the front porch. He’d give us a hug and say hello before taking our car down to his garage (an immense structure that he had built himself out of leftover telephone polls). After he was finished with the car he’d make time to pick on dad for having his hair too long while simultaneously loading me up in the car to take me to the barber! But, just before we left, he let dad know what project we’d be working on when we got back from town. (It wouldn’t have been a trip to Ohio without fixing the well, or rebuilding a motor, or poring a cement walkway, or shingling the roof, etc)…Sis has been married for 17 years now to a godly man who used to be my Sunday School teacher. They live in a little town about 25 minutes (or 15 minutes if you drive like they do!) away from mamaw’s and papaw’s old house. They are blessed with 2 young girls of their own, one who just received the Lord this past Easter! Mamaw, now in her 80’s, lives in an assisted living facility close to them. She has Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, she is doing fairly well physically. She still remembers our faces and is in pretty good spirits, especially before sunset (those who know someone with Alzheimer’s know what I’m talking about). Papaw, a Baptist minister who made a great impact upon my life, went home to be with the Lord almost a decade ago now…I would love to see papaw again. I’d love to see my mamaw with her full faculties again. I’d love for them both to meet and remember the wonderful wife God has blessed me with and the fabulous great grandchild they have. I won’t find that to be a reality when we reach our destination in Ohio this year. However, one day, when we reach the final destination for those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, those dreams along with others that have never crossed my mind nor entered my heart will be realized in full forever. Not only will my relatives be there with great excitement (I am so thankful to have a family that is mostly comprised of believers—there is truly no greater blessing!), but our Heavenly Father will be awaiting us! I don’t know if He’ll have soup, cake, cornbread, fried potatoes, haircuts, or projects, but I do know that the God who loved us so much to give His only Son, who has a celebration in Heaven each time a lost sinner asks for forgiveness, will surely have a welcome home bash beyond our wildest imagination!