Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Ocean of Stories: Fourteen Hours

Our grand adventure began and ended with a fourteen hour car drive and ride. 

Map courtesy of MapQuest.
Three of us drove (well, me less than Steve or Abby).  The first five hours were fun. Everyone was awake and energetic. During these hours the anticipation and eagerness to get to our destination was far greater than the length and width of the car. We noticed everything. We were aware of people in the cars alongside of us. We were attentive to each other. Leisurely we stopped whenever we wanted. We didn’t keep time and it didn’t seem to be counting against us. We ate at Cracker Barrel—a sit down-let’s order-and eat-here kind of meal. Hurry had not infiltrated our thoughts about the trip yet.

During the next four hours we were beginning to feel the affects of being in a car for so long. Scenery became an endless stretch of billboard signs—advertising things that normally we would have ignored, but in our road trip stupor they became absurdly funny. We started counting off our trip in increments based on the next major city or state border. Atlanta and her sometimes eight and ten lanes of traffic proved to be more beast than beauty. 

The last five hours I don’t remember very well. They are a blur of headlight beams, traffic lights and interstate signage indicating that our destination was still much too far away. It was a period of time of tingling legs and twisted clothes and wishing the book bag was in the trunk. I fell asleep for short periods of time, joggled to a weird state of napping by the constant clicks of the wheels rolling across the asphalt. I woke disoriented; at first I didn’t know if I was in the back seat or the front. We became experts at watching the exit signs to make sure there would be places for pit stops. To empty and to refill. I washed my hands so many times I lost count, and I chewed a whole pack of gum. My Burt’s Bees chap stick began to disappear.

We talked about a lot of issues and ideas while we drove. We listened to music, and we rode in silence. We read. Page after page after page. Novels. Biographies. Memoirs. Scripture. We tried to decipher directions from the MapQuest lady. We answered texts and sent them.

There was no real bickering. Just light-hearted ribbing and teasing. No are we there yets?. There was laughter. And there were sighs. There was a great deal of quarreling about the semis on the road. Often they didn’t seem to detect our presence in the lanes next to them. They just scooted right over assuming that we would quickly move out of the way if we felt like we were in danger.

And steadily through it all was a quiet, narrow stream of prayer. Narrow, not broad. Shallow, not deep. But it was there. It was a trickle of water like the faucet had been forgotten, not quite twisted hard enough to shut the valve.

There was too much noise and static and movement for it to be more. But the stream remained.

When we finally arrived at our house and fell into bed at 1:30 am. I do remember stepping out of the stupor and realizing that we were at our destination. We were exhausted, but we were safe. 

We had arrived.

I remember lying in the curve of my husband’s shoulder and not being able to keep the stream inside my head any longer. Even in my state of exhaustion I was grateful. Thankful. And we prayed aloud in that close, dark room. Not a long prayer. Not a deep prayer. But we thanked our God for the blessings he had poured out in just the last fourteen hours alone. And then we fell asleep between the cool, soft sheets.

The fourteen hours on the return trip were not so pretty. Actually they had some real ugly on them. Most of what was mentioned before happened again—except hurry was the mantra.

Get there. Get there. Get there.

No leisurely stopping. No Cracker Barrel sit-downs. The trip home was one of haste. It was one of irritability and snapped replies. And far more sighs than laughter. Far more annoyance than patience.

I know what was missing on the return trip. At least for me. I know what was absent—the trickle of prayer. The steady little stream. Thus, at the end of the trip gratitude did not come. There was a forgetfulness and a negligence of thanksgiving. There was no bowing of our heads in this quiet acknowledgment that once again God had seen us safely through another journey.

Same trip. Same route. Same people.

But at the end of this trip everyone went to bed disgruntled. Withdrawn. Injured from the whiplash of the ride.

Prayer (at least for me) had been forgotten. In my hurry to return I turned the water faucet too tight. Hurry and speed had robbed us.  

Get there.

Get there replaced let’s enjoy every minute of this.

I remember the two fourteen hour segments with far different sentiments and perspectives: one with something bordering on delight and the other with something akin to disgust.

And isn’t that life? Aren’t these fourteen hour segments similar to our lives?

It’s cliché to say that life is a journey. In modern vernacular: a road trip. But it’s true regardless. We have a destination. We have somewhere we want to be.  

During these fourteen hour segments we always have devices and books available to help us maneuver the tricky sections in the road. We have friends who are praying for us—praying for our well being. Praying for us to catch a glimpse of God, even if it is just the back of his head. 

However, there are times we get tired. We get hungry. We get bored. We get zoned. We get hateful. We get annoyed. We get apathetic. We get ungrateful.

My question?

Which fourteen hour segment will we choose the most?

Which one will become our regular, maybe not always,  reaction and response? Remember it’s the same fourteen hour segment regardless. No matter how you divide the trip it still has to be driven.

I know this for certain—you sleep a whole lot better, a whole lot deeper, a whole lot longer when you fall asleep telling Him thank you.


Sarabee said...

Such a beautiful reminder... I know that road trip haze very well... letting that linger in my heart today. I do that in my day so often- just get there, check the day off. Letting the trickle of prayer be the center and focus today.

TARSmith said...

I want to do the trip carried along by the trickle, too. Especially the gratitude b/c He's given so much.

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