The RoadA Travel Meditation

            I was at B. B. King’s Blues Club in Manhattan last night, taking in a concert by the legendary Texas band The Flatlanders. Butch Hancock did a song called “Thank God for the Road”, in which he celebrated hubcaps and telephone poles and sweet rolls and cups of coffee–things we associate with automobile trips. And I started thinking about how many songs are about “the road”–like Robbie Fulks’ “There’s Always a Way Out If There’s a Road”, Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” or “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man”, Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”, Merle Haggard’s “The Fugitive”, Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”, Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, or even Lee Marvin’s “I Was Born Under a Wandering Star”...the list is practically endless.

             In such songs, the characters sometimes are “on the road” because they’re musicians...sometimes they’re running from the law...and sometimes they simply are seeking freedom and trying to “find themselves.” But whatever the reasons for hitting it might be, the road looms large in the American imagination. Our country was built on treks: people coming from the “old country” and journeying to a new land...people heading out for the West in covered wagons...people packing up all their belonging and heading for California to find relief from the Dust Bowl...jobless people hopping trains and becoming hoboes...and, perhaps saddest of all, the forced migration of Native Americans in the legendary “Trail of Tears”. Americans historically have been a people on the move.

             We romanticize these journeys, but some of them were tragic and all of them were filled with danger and peril. All journeys have their risks: Anyone who was present at my 15th anniversary service has heard the story about me spending a night in jail with two classmates in Chandler, Oklahoma, when we broke down on the road and had no money for a motel. Most of us will return from summer vacation this year with tales of challenging happenings in our travels.

             The Bible reminds us that God is with us when we journey. Scripture is filled with journeys. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness, for instance. They journeyed through the desert, until they finally found their home in the Promised Land after forty years (and Dave Dudley thought that “Six Days on the Road” was long!) Like all journeys, theirs had high points (when God gave the Ten Commandments, when the manna appeared to feed them) and low points (the times God punished them for their grumbling and their rebellion). But throughout the journey, God was with them, leading them ultimately to their new home.

             Another Bible journey happened on the evening of the first Easter (Luke 24:13-32). Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking down the road to Emmaus, and a mysterious figure joined them. They were a little confused about Jesus’ death and resurrection, so the mysterious figure set them straight that this was all God’s plan. Then the mysterious figure broke bread with them, and disappeared. The stranger was, of course, Jesus, whom they were kept from recognizing on the road.

             God is with us when we’re on the road. God likes the road. When David wanted to build a Temple so that God could have a permanent address, God actually expressed a preference for moving around:

             I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt,

             even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle.

             (II Samuel 7:6).

  So apparently even God kind of likes telephone poles and cups of coffee and sweet rolls..

             In fact, God makes the most dramatic journey of all: from heaven to earth. In Jesus, He came down from the heights of divine glory into our humble world. And He undertook an even tougher journey when He picked up His crossed and walked down the Way of Sorrows to the cross. That was truly a hard road. God undertook these journeys for us. These journeys–the journey that led Him to Bethlehem and the journey that led Him to Calvary–bring us salvation.

             Really, you and I are always on the road. It’s not a literal road for most of us–and thank God for that, since life “on the road” isn’t all coffee and sweet rolls. It can be pretty hard:

             Living on the road, my friend, was going to keep you free and clean

             But now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath’s as hard as kerosene (“Pancho

             and Lefty”, Townes van Zandt).

No, not literally on the road, but spiritually. Our life is a journey–“from the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse”, and beyond. Like all journeys, it is fraught with peril. Like all journeys, it has its high points and its low points. But we rejoice that God is with us– just like He was with the people of Israel, just like He was with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. We journey in confidence, knowing that the God who loves the road is on the road with us.

             In fact, let’s take it one step further–God is not only on the road with us...He is the road. Jesus said, “I am the way.” Our road is called “Jesus”. He is our road to heaven, our road to joy. And may we stay on that road all our lives, because that road takes us into eternal bliss.

             Now...can I have one of those sweet rolls...?

             God loves you and so do I

Vol. 83 - No. 7
JULY 2012