I’m sure you’ve seen t-shirts with that platitude written across the chest – “Life’s a journey, not a destination” – but what does that mean, really? Well, I had the difference on display in my life this past week. And what a difference there is!
We had a family wedding to attend in Beaumont, Texas, on Sunday. We chose to drive from Apex rather than fly. I was also going to get the chance to hunt hogs in the East Texas Piney Woods, and it’s much easier to travel with guns in a car than on a plane. Well, this trip gave us a destination – two, really: there and back again. Driving, it’s a 17-hour “wheels-rolling” trip each way. It’s a little over 1,100 miles, so that means those “wheels-rolling” hours have to average 65 miles per hour. This means driving speed-limit plus 9 all the time. The miles do spin by, but it’s stressful to be driving that fast, and it gets more stressful with each passing year. We made it to Mobile on Friday and got a good night’s sleep before “easing” into Beaumont on Saturday – only about 6 hours of driving that day.
The wedding was good. The hog hunting was fun but unproductive. The feral hog problem remains the same today as it was before my arrival. Sigh.
And then it’s time to head home. We left Beaumont about 4:00 Tuesday afternoon, after returning from the fruitless hunt and wanting to get “a few miles under our belts” that afternoon, so as to make the barrier that is Atlanta more easily achieved on Wednesday. We’ve been driving back and forth between NC and Beaumont since 1977, and I have always planned our trips around when we will hit Atlanta – it is essential to NOT be there during rush hour. I convinced the ladies to push past my stated destination, Hammond, Louisiana, on Tuesday, and drive about another 1:45 to get back to Mobile. We did it, arriving there and in bed around 10:00. This made it, in theory, an easy drive on Wednesday to reach and pass through Atlanta before the evening rush hour. And we did it!
So where is this story going? Where’s the “journey” part? I’m getting there. Did I mention the rain and drizzle? No? Well, Monday night and Tuesday morning we had a little rain and drizzle while sitting in our stands waiting for little piggy to show his snout at the corn feeders. We left that in the rear-view mirrors as we headed out Tuesday afternoon. But guess what happened that night? We stopped. The front and its precipitation didn’t. Heading northeast on I85 out of Montgomery, we caught up with it – with a vengeance. For the better part of an hour we drove diagonally up through the band of frog-drowning rain. Wipers on high, everyone’s flashers going blink-blink-blink, and our speeds actually reduced down to around 50mph or so. A wheel-gripping drive for sure. Exhausting. All for the sake of a destination – Atlanta before rush hour and eventually, home. And once through it, the need to push ahead so it doesn’t catch up with us again is in the back of my mind.
We kept driving, but we had entered the drizzle zone. Wet highways, lots of traffic, and constantly having to adjust the windshield wipers. And then Jill, the GPS, says we really should exit I85 and take an alternate route because of Red Traffic. Google maps confirmed an accident several miles ahead (ain’t technology grand), and so we detoured. My vision of getting home Wednesday was vaporizing fast. I accepted it as a reality I would just have to live with. We dropped Robin off in Kings Mountain and booked a room in Charlotte.
Then the journey began! We had all day Thursday to go less than 150 miles. What a treat! Nothing to be home for. No pressing engagement. No wedding or funeral. So why not do something different? Relax and make it a journey, not a destination. And that we did. We forewent the free breakfast at the motel (not much lost there, that’s for sure) and chose instead a restaurant recommended by a good friend familiar with Charlotte – The Original Pancake House. A leisurely breakfast while being waited on, not self-service hurry-up-and-get-going in the motel breakfast room. And delicious cherry crepes and chorizo sausage. Yum! And because we were on a journey, and not slaves to a destination, I chose to take an alternate route home. A little longer, but not the 49/64 rut we normally have the wheels in. So we rolled through the foothills of the Uwharries via Albemarle and Troy and Carthage. A most pleasant day! A most pleasant drive. And we arrived home quite relaxed in the early afternoon.
And there’s the lesson, right? We’re generally so focused on getting somewhere, some thing, some milestone, some goal, that we don’t relax and slow down and look around. Why is that? What are we missing when we live like that? Are those destinations so overwhelming in import that they are worth it? Worth missing all that is happening around us in God’s big world? Worth ignoring the still small voice that calls us to pause and commune with Him? I think not. And to that end, I think I’ll focus a little more on the events of each day that God gives me, rather than always looking ahead to some future goal. Who knows what I’ll discover along the way.