Hitting a Brick Wall: What Defines a Journey?

I’ve just returned from a glorious journey, a wandering, meandering, twists-and-turns road trip.  I was driving, singing, praying, wondering, imagining and dreaming, and then I hit a brick wall.  Metaphorically.

The journey slammed to a dead stop when my car wouldn’t start.  And the engine proved to be inexplicably damaged beyond easy repair.  And I met Jeff, the wonder tow-er, and had one of the more interesting, God-filled days of the entire trip.

Yes, I set off in my beloved MINI Cooper Zippy, drove her 4040 miles (out of a planned 7500 to 8000) and returned compliments of Southwest Airlines.  And though it’s an airline with a sense of humor, a minimum of stress-inducing officiousness, very few seemingly pointless rules, and luggage is (gasp!) free… there’s no way that one of their journeys can qualify as a road trip.

First off, you get there too fast.  And secondly, they take you through the air.  Which hardly qualifies, as I said, as a road trip.

So in the 17 days since Zippy broke down and 8 days since I returned to civilization (i.e. home, where there are more mandates to act civilized than on the road where I truly can eat only beef jerky for days if I want to), I’ve been thinking about how we frame or explain incomplete journeys.  Even to ourselves.

For when people say, “How was your trip?” (which a few generous souls actually have said), I hear myself saying, “It was the most glorious thing that ever happened to me,” quickly followed by “but my car broke down and is still in Reno.”  And then that becomes the conversation, complete with “Oh no” and “I’m so sorry” and “What will you do?” and “Why in the heck doesn’t Reno have a MINI dealer?” and … we’re off and running in the last direction I wanted to go in, but the one I made sure we’d pursue once I mentioned the car breakdown.  The narrative becomes “I had a great trip but it’s ruined now.”

Whereas the truth is this: “I had a great trip.”

Believing in God and His providence as I do, I have to stop and wonder, “What defines any of our journeys?”  Is the journey the time between the beginning and end of what we plan (whether an outing, a day, a week, or a lifetime)?  Is the journey the time between what we plan and what happens to derail our plans?  Or is it all the journey?

And how long should journeys be?  Of a planned length or indefinite?

In other words, could I still be on the journey?  Is it possible that home is another destination on the “Let me go out and wander and listen to God” tour?

Yes, it takes an adjustment to leave a car somewhere, regroup, rent a car while waiting and then abandon the plan to return for the car and go ahead and fly home without the car.  Yes, it takes another adjustment to realize I won’t even be going back for the repaired car and — instead — will ship it home and admit that the trip is over, the road from Reno, Nevada to my east coast town not having been covered, at least not by me, in my loop around the country.  And Zippy’s doing it on the back of a behemoth truck, in shame I fear.

But I’m going to quit mentioning the dead car to anyone who might ask how my epic journey was, for it was epic even in its half-finished form, altered by forces beyond my control.  God’s ways are not our ways, and yet I know they are good.  I know He is good.  And whatever journey He orchestrates is a good one, even if I would have planned it differently.

Southwest Airlines, I forgive you.  Brick wall, you too.

Road from Reno, give me a rain check.


Not quite this bad but almost



~ by Cary on November 10, 2010.

One Response to “Hitting a Brick Wall: What Defines a Journey?”

  1. […] felt a measure of that agitation when my recent, beautiful road trip ended without my permission.  I’ve already written about the process of surrendering to God and being thankful for His gift … in any form He deemed right (even if I was tempted to think it should have continued as planned), […]

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