It's All About the Destination
So many people have shared with me the phrase, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” My guess is those people have not moved halfway across the country with three kids and three pets in one minivan in two days. After having completed such a journey, I would suggest a reversal of that adage: “It’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination” — absolutely about the destination! Allow me to illustrate with a few highlights from our journey.
First, we have two cats who enjoy vocalizing their displeasure at being brought on a two-day, 14-hours-a-day road trip. Even with a medicinal cocktail for them by the vet, they were determined to sing lamentations all the way to Lincoln, Neb., where I am embarking on a new teaching role as professor of communication at Union College. Adding to our menagerie in the car was our Alaskan malamute, Winston, tipping the scales at more than 100 pounds. Like most of us, he just couldn’t get comfortable, sitting on the cats in their carriers or the kids before he found a way to lay on the floor.
Second, we had bad luck with food service. We had prepared snacks along with several food gifts from our generous Puyallup Church members for the trip, so we didn’t starve. However, each time we decided to stop at a food establishment, the service was slower than a line at the DMV. Just outside of Utah we stopped at an A&W because it — and the gas station it coexisted with — seemed to be the only signs of life for 100 miles. Our careful explanations of food choices not only rang on deaf ears, but, in yet another slothful line, we spotted the window attendant leaning leisurely out the window, chatting aimlessly as if on prophetic time. Our mission could not wait, so we abandoned the line and drove off — subsisting on goldfish crackers and trail mix until we arrived in Salt Lake City late that evening.
There I braved the only Walmart in the area, which was set to close soon. As I raced against the clock to find sustenance for the children, the store closed the self-checkout option and placed a lone cashier to handle a line of 15 increasingly restless people. A man who had likely had a worse day than the rest of us confronted the manager who, oblivious to mounting crisis, was restocking cigarettes. I couldn’t make out everything he said, but I did pick up a reference to the place opposite of heaven and a synonym for donkey. Two more registers miraculously sprung to life, and we all got through.
There is more to tell (like some of the dis-stink-tive aromas emanating from the feedlots in cattle country), but the bottom line is, in this case, I might have gladly foregone the journey in order to reach the destination. The Apostle Paul tell tells the Corinthian believers, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor. 9:24). Everybody runs, but not everyone runs to arrive. Some people wander off the track and never arrive. Everyone is on a journey, but not everyone journeys with intentionality, in a manner that brings them to a clear destination. Paul says there are times to focus on the prize, to arrive at the goal, to finish the road trip, to (thankfully) get out of the overcrowded minivan, take a deep breath and know “this is where I will be planted.”
When the children of Israel arrived (the first time) on the borders of the Promised Land, they panicked, lost trust in the One who sent them and then had to wander 40 years in the wilderness. While that wandering period taught them some important lessons (and killed off a generation), it was not God’s original plan for them. Because they lacked the focus and faith needed to trust God with their destination, they spent an additional four decades in training. How much better would have been if all those families been prepared to arrive at the Promised Land together, if the vision of a new life outweighed the challenges of the unknown!
I admit, many journeys are important. Journeys teach us critical lessons we would never comprehend without them, if we never understood hardships or inconveniences. In some cases (backpacking, taking a college degree, etc.) the journey is the destination or part of it. As I prepare to defend my Ph.D. dissertation this summer I am grateful for the coursework and experiences that have led to this opportunity.
I’m thankful our trip to Lincoln didn’t take 40 years, although at some moments the trend seemed headed in that direction. Perhaps at some point, I’ll look back and realize how many iconic memories of the journey seem rosier in retrospect. As our family gets settled into this new place and project, perhaps God is helping us understand that destinations and journeys are all wrapped up together. As the Apostle Paul says, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12)