Most families have just returned from a road trip of some variety this past summer. You may not realize it, but this is a fairly recent development. We seem to think that the Declaration of Independence lists our inalienable rights as “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a thousand dollar (or more) family vacation every year.” When I was growing up we might have gone on two or three “vacations.” The rest of the time we visited family, and that involved nothing but visiting—the adults talking and the children playing together. Anywhere we might have gone while there was a free day trip—no admission fees—and lunch was usually a picnic we packed ourselves.
If it hadn’t been for discovering tent camping, my boys would not have had vacations either. In those days you could pitch a tent in a state park for $7.00 a night, and cook your own meals over the campfire instead of eating out. We also did our share of family visiting. Although you hate to view your family as a “free motel,” it was the only way we could see them at least once a year.
I like to think of this life as a road trip. Too many people consider it the destination and that will skew your perspective in a bad way. If you think this life is supposed to be the good part, you will sooner or later be severely disappointed.
As we go along the road a lot of things happen. We will be faced with decisions that are not easy to make, and which may turn out badly. Sometimes we are too easy on ourselves, making excuses and rationalizing. But other times we are entirely too hard on ourselves. If you look back on a decision you made years ago, and find yourself wishing you had done things differently, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were wrong then. Sometimes it simply means you were without experience, a little naïve, a lot ignorant.
Let’s put it this way. I live almost an hour north of Gainesville, Florida. If I leave for Atlanta at 8 AM, it’s no shame if I am not even to Macon by 10 AM. On the other hand, if I leave at 5 AM and haven’t even made Macon yet, something is wrong. I’ve been dawdling over gas pumps, stopping for snacks too many times, or wandering through tourist traps that have nothing to do with the trip itself. The question, then, is not where you are on the road, but when you left in the first place. You can’t expect yourself to know what to do in every situation of life when you haven’t even experienced much life. The decision you make today may be completely different than the one you made in the same situation twenty years ago, but twenty years ago if you did the best you could do with what you knew, you did well.
And what are we doing on our road trip? Are we wasting too much time at tourist traps? Life is full of distractions, things not necessarily wrong, but which may not help us on the trip at all, or may even do harm by skewing our perspective. It really isn’t important where you live and what kind of car you drive in this life. If you think it is, you’ve forgotten where you’re headed—the here and now has become your goal instead.
If you want to keep your mind on the goal, ignore the billboards life puts out for you and spend time with your atlas. Nothing helps me get through a long trip more than watching the towns go by and following them with my finger on the map. Every time I check the mileage we are a little further on, and soon, sooner than you might think, the destination is in sight. That’s why you started this trip in the first place—not for the World’s Largest Flea Market, or the Gigantic Book Sale, or even the Only Locally Owned Canning Facility and Orchard (with free samples).
Watch the road, use the map, avoid the tourist traps. Make the best decisions you can at every intersection. This is the only road trip you get. Don’t mess it up.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27