“Are we there yet?”
Anyone who’s been on a long enough car ride (especially with a little kid) is certainly more than familiar with the oft-repeated phrase. After a while, taking a trip ends up taking its toll on the people who are traveling. Yet along with the monotony a long journey can bring, surely there is some value in the voyage itself (other than just getting us to our destinations, of course!).
Allow me to paint a scene for you. It begins with a long road, stretching miles between two cities. Along this dusty road walk two travelers, keeping up a strong and steady pace in hope of reaching their destination on time. Like anyone else who travels, these two begin to get bored. The “Are we there yet?” phase starts to settle in. They talk with one another, discussing current events.
Suddenly they are joined by a third party, a fellow journeyman walking down the road in the same direction as them. Our two travelers welcome this man, and invite him to be part of their conversation. They speak to him about a friend of theirs who recently died, among other matters. As it starts to get late, the two travelers decide to stop for the night, and they ask their new companion to remain with them, since they have enjoyed his company. He agrees to stay, and the three all sit down to share a meal. As the bread is broken, our travelers suddenly recognize their guest — it’s their friend who had died! And that friend is none other than Jesus Christ.
Some of you may recognize this as the tale of the Road to Emmaus, detailed originally in the Gospel of Luke. The story is a favorite of mine because of its symbolic role in reminding us that God is with us on our journey through life (even if we don’t recognize Him). In a lot of ways, this story speaks to the spirituality of a road trip in a unique way — it is, after all, quite literally God’s road trip! So, what can we learn this summer, then, from the story of the Road to Emmaus?
Your friends are important.
In the story, we see the two travelers welcome Jesus into their midst as a new friend and companion, but even before he comes along, they are on a journey together. Our lives are not solitary ventures — and hopefully, neither are our road trips! There are times when our roads will be difficult to walk alone, but with friends and family by our sides, they will be much easier.
As I mentioned earlier, a key moment in the Road to Emmaus finds our initial travelers encountering a man on the road (whom they do not recognize as the risen Christ) and inviting Him to walk with them. This example sets a precedent for each of us. Now, I’m not saying that you should pick up hitchhikers and such, but we should be open and accepting toward the people we meet along the way. This is true also for our spiritual journey in life — we should meet others with welcoming arms rather than sending them away.
God is always with us.
God’s role in the Emmaus story is possibly my favorite part of the tale. The surprise revelation of Jesus’ identity to the travelers (I always envision Caravaggio’s rendering of the moment) is a memorable and exciting twist, and one that serves a very important purpose. Jesus’ appearance at the dinner table serves to remind us that God is always present in our lives. While, like the travelers, we might not recognize God at first, God shapes the way we live every day.
This summer, take these lessons to heart, and keep them close as you take your next big trip. We’ve all got something to learn from ourselves, each other and God, along both our physical trips here on earth and our spiritual journey to heaven.