I was excited and eager to start my journey. I was driving from NYC to Florida to attend the Christ Hold Fast Conference in Orlando, meet some dear friends, and make some new ones. I had over a thousand miles to go, and despite the countless podcasts and pandora stations, 16 hours in a car by yourself can feel like a long time. Your mind can’t help but wander, and mine did.
I had both hands on the wheel, most of the time, and I felt in complete control, but after barely being on the road for over an hour, I said to myself, “what was I thinking?” I started to consider how long the drive actually was. I knew on paper how long it was supposed to last, but in that moment, I couldn’t see the end. It was too far ahead of me. The majority of my trip would start in the bright light of the morning and eventually end around midnight.
Though it wasn’t constant, my mind wandered to all the “what ifs.” What if I have an accident? What if my car breaks down? What if this now older body can’t handle the stress of a long drive like it had in the past? I don’t know all the circumstances, but I had an old high school friend step out of his car in his driveway, collapse and die of a heart attack on my birthday this year. So yeah, that’s a thought in my mind too. What if for some reason, I don’t make it home?
Whether detours or dead ends, if I could think of it, I did. I thought about how many ways this trip could go off course. 16 hours can bring a lot of possible “speed bumps” to mind. I thought early on about turning around and just forgoing the whole trip. They’d record the messages, so I’m not missing anything. I can still chat with all those same friends on Twitter and Facebook. These were the kind of thoughts I had as I started out.
But I pressed on with miles to go...
Sometime just after the halfway point, I began to feel encouraged. Not because of my ability to drive, or because of the friends I’d get to meet or even the good messages I was sure to hear. I was encouraged because I was closer to the end. Every hundred miles or so that ticked off the GPS felt like burdens being lifted. There was something about nearing the end of the journey, in the middle of all my anxiety and worry, which was comforting.
So, what was it that was a comfort to me? It was simply making it to the end. Arriving where I had planned to be. Period. Minutes from the comfort of my timeshare, I knew I was at the end of my drive. I knew it was God’s gracious and undeserved provision that brought me there safely, even though it was my hands on the wheel guiding the car the whole time as I flew by an assortment of accidents, flashing lights of local highway law enforcement pulling people over and extra-large semi-trailers barreling down the road at what seemed like sometimes “ludicrous” speed, though none went to “plaid” (you’ll have to watch Mel Brook’s Spaceballs for the movie reference).
I do think it was His graciousness that brought me there safely, but I can’t just look around and point fingers at all the lawbreakers closing in around me on the road. He protected me from myself. There were times I may have driven more than a little too fast. And, there were times I may have “glanced” at my phone. Heck, my meal choices alone at the various stops along the way could have been considered quite suspect.
So what’s the point?
As my mind would often wander, I saw life in this drive. I saw the pitfalls and encouragements of a long existence. Though now closer to the back end of my life, it’s still hard sometimes to contemplate the end of the journey. And while I do consider myself a Christian, by no means do I consider myself a good one. I still worry if I’ll make it to the end. I’ve had enough rough days where I feel like I could just chuck it all away and go do what “feels good.” Considering the overall topic of the conference was the prodigal son, these thoughts seem to fit the theme well. It wouldn’t be that I didn’t have faith, but that I would reject the faith God gifted to me. It scares me sometimes how close I feel to that edge.
While I made it to the conference and back in one piece, fortunately avoiding all the road hazards and pitfalls of long distance driving, none of us are ever that fortunate in life. Even for the Christian, the dark stain of sin that rests on this broken world and that’s still a part of us, will rear its grotesque head over and again as we get horribly sidetracked on our journeys. Sin is sin, whether in thoughts, words, or deeds. There is no patting ourselves on the back. Even if we simply sum up all the commandments to, “love God and others” (paraphrased), we still stand horribly accused of failing. An honest assessment of those two commands concludes that we don’t go a day without crashing against the wall of perfection we need to be near God.
And with miles to go, there’s grace.
Whether I made it safely to Florida or not, even through my fear and doubt- I hope they’re not dirty words for a Christian- my hope was in Christ not just for my protection, but for my deliverance in whatever would come my way as I made my trek down south. I couldn’t trust in my ability to have faith in Him, but in his ability to love me and care for me despite my sometimes weak and shaky faith. I had to trust in Christ being for me as I made way to Florida or whether I made it all. He has to be for me in every situation, not just in my safe journeys, but in my struggles and failures.
I still can’t fathom the end of my sin-scarred walk here in this world. Every sin is immediately and instantly laid bare before My Father in Heaven. Even sins I haven’t even contemplated. Yet, He forgives me, and He loves me, and He calls me righteous. I have to trust that He is for me, and He holds fast to me, whether this journey lasts another five years or fifty. The best part of that trust is that it’s another thing done for me. Another gift God gives me in Christ. He has planted in me hope, faith, and trust for the journey.
Miles to go...
May Christ hold fast to us all!
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?