This Sunday marks the beginning of spring break for many in our community. Friends and family will embark upon road trips across this country. For many, a road trip is a necessary evil required for getting from point A to point B. For the attentive, however, the trip can be as meaningful as the destination so long as we remember to stop along the way. Eugene Peterson, who makes his home in Montana, explains that when his family takes a road trip they make a point of paying attention to those signs that announce “Roadside Vista Ahead.” He writes, “In anticipation we slow down. And then we look. We see where we’ve been; we see where we’re headed. Take a breather. Eat a snack. Enjoy the scenery. We can’t always be driving, watching the road closely. Not driving is also part of the trip – savoring what we’ve done, absorbing the landscape, letting the contours of the land and the colors of the horizon sink into our imaginations.”[i]
In the road trip of life, we often call such moments holidays or vacations or possibly even Sabbaths – moments when we can pause and relax and reflect. Sometimes, like during spring break, the holidays are set on the calendar for some general purpose – like resting in the midst of our work or school. Other times, these “rest stops” occur at the culmination of some great process and are often accompanied by some type of ceremony – a wedding, a graduation, the birth of a child. Sometimes they surprise us – like when we realize our children are no longer babies and wonder when that happened and how we missed it. Some such moments grab us when we’d rather not be taken hold of, like the death of someone we love. It seems almost sacrileges to call the death of a loved one a holiday – but if we trace the root of the word back to its original sense – a holy day, perhaps you’ll understand what I’m attempting to get at. For what can be more holy than pausing at the time of a friend’s passing from this life to the next to offer thanks, to express grief, and to ponder the meaning of it all?
True life requires such moments, moments of thanksgiving, moments of grief, moments of reflection. That is, if you want your life to be a human life and not like those of the animals who rush from moment to moment with no thought for the past and no understanding of the future. Moments of reflection help us put today in its proper perspective. They help us see the truth of our present situations in light of the larger narrative of our lives and, ultimately, in the light the even larger narrative of God’s life. Sabbath, after all, is not a repudiation of the rest of the week, but rather an invitation to put the rest of the week into proper perspective. Rest stops, whatever form they take, don’t keep us from the journey so much as they keep us journeying in the way God intends.
So this week blessings on you many travels, but also, blessings upon the pit stops along the way.
[i] Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over a Wall (New York: HarperOne, 1997), 137.