It is hours before daylight. We rise early and load the family into the mini-van. Our oldest Kyle and youngest Mary take the last seat while daughters Jenny and Amie arrange pillows in the middle seat. Kathy and I hope everyone goes back to sleep.
A few streets later, I turn onto Interstate 20 and prepare to put some distance between here and there in the early hours of morning.
Only minutes later, three-year-old Mary’s sleepy voice tells her brother, “Look! There are so many trucks! How many trucks, Kyle?”
“It’s night time, Mary Frances. Go to sleep.”
“Okay, I’ll count them. One, two, three, four. . . Wait. One, two. . . Wait. One, two, three, four. Kyle, what number comes next?” No answer. “Okay. One, two. Wait. Kyle, they’re going too fast.”
“Shhh. Please go to sleep.”
“Do I count the ones that are stopped? Kyle, do I count the trucks if they aren’t moving? One, two, three. Wait.”
“Mary Frances! Stop counting!”
“Dad! She has to stop counting!” In the rear view mirror, I see my son cover his head with a pillow.
Twelve hours later, we reach our destination. There is laughter. There are fun times. A good journey.
While serving Baptists, I have enjoyed traveling to churches sharing the story of ministry. In Louisiana, long before GPS, I twisted and turned along many back roads in the dim light of dusk, wondering if I was on the right path. Sometimes, I followed cars with people who just “looked Baptist,” reasoning they must be on the way to church, too!
I traveled along satsuma groves on roads that ended at the Gulf of Mexico. I watched rice fields burning as I traveled to Lake Charles.
I slowed down to gaze at the horses galloping in acres and acres of lush pastures just north of Lake Pontchartrain and zigzagged along narrow one-lane roads through bayou country where mist would almost hide the way if it were not for the bright lights strung along the front porches I passed.
I remember the tiredness leaving me as I would drink in the sights along the way. “Joy in the journey,” the poets call it. I can attest to it.
Each November, I now crisscross North Carolina visiting churches, telling the story of hope and healing for children and families. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to tell of God’s work, and these Tar Heel roads have their own charms as I go along my way.
I memorize road signs ––Possum Ridge is a favorite. Earlier, in Watauga County, I pass Turkey Foot Lane. There is Irish Potato Road just a hop, skip and a jump from Tater Ridge. In the west, the mountains shoot up behind every turn. The land flattens out going east dropping off into the Atlantic Ocean. It feels as if the wind is always at my back.
At every destination, I meet people even more fascinating than the sights, and I come home refreshed every time, energized from being with those who love the Lord.
Journeys. They start and stop all the time. I have learned that there is great joy to be had in the going. But I would disagree that the getting there dims in comparison. The hope of what awaits upon the arriving keeps me moving forward.
From the moment I gave my heart to Jesus, I began on a path toward the promise of heaven and unity with Christ, and while there have been moments of grandeur in this world, the end promises to be beyond spectacular.
Jesus told his disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
For those who trust Jesus, our destination is eternal life in Him, and we wait our whole lives to reach that joyous conclusion. In the meantime, let’s count it all gain to be about the work assigned to us.
One, two, three. . .