Sunday, May 10, 2009

Road Trip

Over the course of my 34 years, I've had the privilege of joining in on eight major road trips, which have largely accounted for my having visited 46 states and eight countries:

  1. With my family in a motorhome to Idaho;
  2. With my dad and brother around the country on a three-week whirlwind tour of "guy-stuff" (MLB Hall of Fame, NFL Hall of Fame, Little League World Series, Mammoth Cave & more);
  3. With my dad to visit potential colleges;
  4. With a traveling music team on a three-month missions trip that went all over the countries of the United States and Venezuela;
  5. With three college friends on a spring break adventure, covering 6400 miles in eight days;
  6. With five college friends on a January-term adventure, as four of them sang in a gospel quartet in various stops along the way;
  7. With my grandmother and 20-some other people on a tour bus around Italy (a college graduation present);
  8. With Tanya on our "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" vacation, where we rented a convertible and drove with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway.

In my mind, at least, there are several factors that distinguish a road trip from a simple vacation:

  • First of all, there must be more involved than simply going to a destination and back. In addition to these road trips, I've visited Disney World, New York City, and Hawaii. But the main focus of those trips was going somewhere and returning--not a road trip.
  • Second, if you're moving (no matter how far), it doesn't count. I've moved cross-country several times, but I'm not counting any of those. Road trips are supposed to be fun; moving is never fun--not a road trip.
  • Third, you have to be on the road for at least a week. Going to a friend's house for a weekend, being in a wedding, going to Grandma's for the holidays--not a road trip.

As a road-tripping veteran (maybe even expert??), I can identify several factors that make a road trip worthwhile and noteworthy:

  • Every day, different places. One of the great things about a road trip is that you keep on seeing new sites. The journey's the thing. There may be other things going on that you have to do along the way, but the trip itself is what you remember.
  • Every day, the same faces. It's the same people with you, day-in and day-out, in your car, van, bus, motorhome or vehicle of choice. So the memories you have, while they include places, they really center around people. It's the relationships that are central on a road trip.
  • Every day, new graces. Whenever you confine people to a limited space, it will always breed some form of conflict. But being committed to the trip, committed to the relationships, and committed to good memories forces the parties involved to work it out--to compromise, to extend grace, to communicate through misunderstandings. And that in itself is a wonderful thing.

In a lot of ways, a road trip is a good metaphor for the church. We're all joined together on a spiritual journey, where there is a destination in mind, but it's the roads we take along the way, the sights we see, and the people we share it with that make all the great memories. And as we're committed to the trip, committed to the relationships, and committed to good memories, we work together to resolve conflict and maintain unity, encouraging and supporting one another along the way.

In this particular road trip, we seek to pick up all the hitchhikers and strays along the way that we possibly can, always scooting over to make room for one more. After all, the more the merrier, the greater the variety, the richer the experience, the deeper the satisfaction, the fonder the memories.

Next week, we're kicking off our series, "Road Trip," an exploration of faith and community, an affirmation of relationships and the value of each person, and an inspiration for all of us to recommit to the journey and life together.

I'd encourage you to consider who you can invite to this series. The longing for connection and true relationships is deep in the human soul--it speaks to the very depths of what God made us for (Gen. 2:18). I'm sure you know someone who is longing to be loved, longing for acceptance, longing for belonging. And we can all find it at the foot of the cross. This series is good news of healing to a hurting world. Be sure to bring a hurting friend.

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