In Praise of Taking the Long Way

A friend sailed solo from Massachusetts to New Zealand when he was younger, taking 16 months.  And then took ill and had to fly home suddenly.  Of course his journey didn’t feel complete, simply because it wasn’t, as he was planning to circumnavigate the globe.

But perhaps the biggest offense was that he arrived back home in 16 hours.  And that is a travesty.  It’s jarring to the system and wreaks havoc on one’s equilibrium (every sort of equilibrium); it’s whiplash-inducing to do in 16 hours what had been done originally in 16 months. Propelled by sails, then propelled by jet fuel.

I 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 of that trip in any form He deemed right (even if I was tempted to think it should have continued as planned), but it was still disconcerting.  I drove 4,040 miles, then had to leave my car 2,587 miles from home.  And ultimately it was returned to me three weeks later on top of a trailer, pulled into my local repair shop for their best efforts (still to come) at fixing “her.”

There’s the issue of control, and there’s the issue of speed.  America is a big country, and it should take a long time to get across it.  Yes, there are times when jumping on a plane is just — well, necessary — because most of the time we don’t have time to spend a week going to the other coast.  But that doesn’t mean it’s normal or preferred to fly over everything.

How else would we know how North Dakota turns into Montana as the Euclidean I-90 stretches west, seemingly infinitely?  How else would we have the reward of finding a mountain (Shasta) where we didn’t know there’d be one, after patiently marking off mile after mile of winding northern California highway?


Layers of mountains



How else would we know what they eat in each place, what the local politicians are working on, how it smells and how people talk?  We wouldn’t.

And mostly we think that’s fine, for we’re in a hurry, heading for somewhere or somebody, and the ends justify the means.   But we forget that the journey is as important as the destination or may in fact be the point of the trip, even if we never reach the planned destination.

I guess it’s like wondering what we’ll BE when we grow up without paying much attention to what we are, in fact, BEING each day, what we are BECOMING as we rove.

One thing the road taught me is that I would like to put aside macro questions of calling and purpose and what I’ll be when I grow up.  Those are the destination big cities of life’s travel.  And I may get to one of them someday, if they are not mirages.  Yet right now I’m navigating through some worthy back roads and small towns, and there are town squares to be explored, shopkeepers to meet, tombstones to stop and see, flowers to smell.

And the fact that there’s fog and that I can only see a few steps in front of me may be more gift than curse.  I’m so finite, the terrain is so vast, and it’s really okay that I’m moving slowly, seeing as much of the map each day as God wants to reveal (or seeing no map at all, but just following where His steady hand guides me).

I’ll get there… wherever “there” is.

~ by Cary on November 16, 2010.

2 Responses to “In Praise of Taking the Long Way”

  1. Love it, Cary. Love the last photo – the gorgeous mountain and the gaze in your eye. What a lesson to enjoy the ride instead of trying to reach the destination. A constant prayer for this results-driven girl!

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