arrival, departure and time In-between

About a year ago, I was talking with a friend about life, our journeys, and the bits of wisdom we've gathered along the way- And he made this comment that hasn't left my mind since:

So many things in the Bible happen along the road.

Think about all the people whose accounts and encounters with God begin with the seemingly insignificant mention that either they were, or Jesus was: in the boat on the way across the lake; on the road to Damascus, Detroit, or Peter's house; going on from there, passing over that, moving along or through this.

I mean, there is definitely a lot of movement going on in this book, the Bible. And I don't get the impression that it was at all uncommon. If you were going town to town, or on pilgrimage to the Temple, or worse if you were in exile- You'd have to come to terms with the fact that you'd be putting some serious miles on your feet.

And for as many times as we're told the specific destination a traveler had in mind- it seems there was also this tendency to simply wander, often for really long periods of time.

Today we read the stories as though something should happen along the way- we expect it- but that's not how the unexpected is experienced when you're in the story.

When I was growing up, my family and I would spend our summers on a rural and woodsy island in northern Michigan where we had a cottage. And for years, a man named Bruce Mackafee would lead groups on these nature walks through the remote inner-core of the island's forest. Now, Mr. Mackafee definitely suffered from a mild Jacque Cousteau complex. Everyone would show up for his walks in tennis-shoes and t-shirts, and this guy would be decked out, head to toe, like he was auditioning for a modeling gig with Gander Mountain.

So on this particular occasion, we'd set out walking to find the secret "great pines" hidden at the island's innermost region. And so, armed with the expertise of one man, the group set out on what should have been a simple hike. But at some point, following close at the heels of our guide-extraordinaire, my brother and I looked back over our shoulders to discover that we'd somehow lost the rest of the group. Our pack of 20+ excited adventurers had somehow dwindled to just three- My brother Steve, Jacque, and myself.

No question. We were lost.

And it's funny how quickly Mr Mackafee's tactics to find the group devolved from poised and professional to utterly desperate. It was hilarious. I have this memory of being 12-years-old with my brother and just screaming, at the top of our lungs, for help, alongside this old man who was like an island legend for his fearless sense of direction.

We eventually found the group- and a great story- but Bruce Mackafee's pride never made it out of the woods that day.

Time and time again along these Bible roads, stuff just happens. The unpredicted invades and the intended destination falls further in the distance and out of focus. Plans are interrupted. Expectations are defied. The once simple and familiar road curves and suddenly we come across a near dead body, we're in the belly of a whale, or on a little fishing boat in the eye of a the perfect storm. For anyone involved in the story- anyone on the road- there isn't a predictable pattern to take comfort in. Something has happened and you've arrived somewhere completely unforeseen.

Plans and typical protocol are thrown out the window - something is going on now.

Miraculous things happen in these moments between departure and arrival. So miraculous that often the arrival is never mentioned- nor do we, the reader, seem to care. The events make clear to us that what's now occurred is far more important than the original intention of the voyage.

Still, even with this knowledge, we act so disappointed when unexpected occurrences arise and force decisions we didn’t plan on making. But how many wonderful changes have been added to your life through such startling surprises? How many difficult challenges have surfaced? I mean, these moments are the substance of life.

Maybe you're at a point where it seems like nothing is happening. You're between jobs or an impending move. You're out of school and looking for that work that'll take on some meaning. Or whatever's going on- I don't know- but it feels as though things are on hold for now; like you're waiting for stuff to start happening again.

If you're like me, then you need to be reminded that things are happening- and take a break from the order and control that you schedule into each day. You need to step back to see that ultimately, where plans and predictability fail, life invades. Take comfort. Take a look around, ahead and behind you. These times in-between are the substance of life. And how you handle them depends on how boldly you believe that God is speaking today; along the way, in the waiting room, on the train- while we least expect it.

Maybe there's more to the old cliche that life is a journey. Maybe contentment comes when we allow our planned destinations to fall further away, and make room for divine spontaneity to quietly intercede on our behalf.

That the two of us may share the road together.