Each year that I’ve been at Lipscomb, we’ve had a specific “theme” for our chapel devotionals. This year our theme is, perhaps, one of the coolest and most applicable analogies that could have been picked for college students. Our theme is “Journey.” Now, it may not sound too exciting, but let me explain.
At the first chapel of the fall semester, we sat and listened as they unveiled the theme we would be spending the next two semesters focusing on. Journey. It seemed like a good representation of the Christian walk. It is a journey, after-all, with the ultimate destination. But when they started explaining what they intended “Journey” to represent, it got interesting.
Imagine yourself getting ready to take the most amazing, cross-country road trip with your best friends. You’ve picked out the perfect destination, mapped out your trip on an old-fashioned paper map, and you all pile in to the coolest Volkswagen van you’ve ever seen. You’re about to embark on the greatest road trip you could have ever imagined.
Now, getting in the van represents your decision to follow Christ. The people in your van are your fellow Christians. The ones who have decided to take this journey with you. And the journey itself, that represents your life.
Throughout the year we’ve had lessons on the dangers of choosing a self-guided tour, how detours and shortcuts can lead you away from your destination, what to do when you realize you’re lost in an unfamiliar place, dealing with distractions, savoring the day, and so many others.
But this past week, our campus minister talked about reasons we decide to get out of the van.
Those seasons of life when it feels easier to walk away than to keep going. So we make the decision to get out of the van. We open the door and hit the ground running. But why? What would possess someone to get out of the van on the road trip that was suppose to be the trip of a lifetime?
Well, here’s a few different scenarios.
1. Sometimes we don’t like the view. We’re driving through Kansas, the skies go dark, and we can sense a storm coming. Or we’re driving through Iowa seeing nothing but cornfields and windmills. We see what staying on the journey has taken our friends or families through. We’ve seen the storms they’ve walked through or the ridicule they’ve endured for being a Christian, and we don’t want any part of that. We see what God is asking us to give up or avoid and we don’t like that either. We can see what’s up ahead, and it looks more burdensome than exhilarating, so we walk away.
2. Sometimes we get bored. Conversation has run dry, the radio is full of commercials, and we’re the only ones left on the road. It’s not just the view that’s bad, but the whole journey itself has become monotonous. We go to church 3 times a week. Read our Bibles. Pray before meals. Do this. Don’t do that. We fall into a routine. And we get bored. We aren’t taking any detours, we aren’t lost, but we aren’t seeing anything exciting going on either. The fire is gone. The zeal we once served with has left. And we become those bored, stagnant pew-sitters. So we leave to find something more exciting. Something that fulfills our desire for entertainment.
3. Sometimes we don’t like the people in the van with us. We’ve been in this van for 8 hours and everyone starts needing their own space. We find out a friend has betrayed us, or someone spreads a rumor, and we can’t imagine having to be in fellowship with them anymore. We think their view on politics is wrong. They think we’re insensitive for not agreeing with them. He’s too conservative. She’s too liberal. Everyone is fighting. Churches are splitting. And we can’t imagine spending one more second having to deal with these people. So we leave.
4. Sometimes we just don’t want to leave “home.” Maybe following Christ separates us from our family or friends or previous lifestyle, and we aren’t ready to give that up. We think the trip would be fun, but we aren’t convinced it’s worth all the things we have to leave behind. So we bail.
5. Sometimes we get uncomfortable. Our legs hurt, the seats are uncomfortable, and it’s too cramped. Sometimes following God takes us out of our comfort zones. We find ourselves in new situations. Sometimes we’re the only ones trying to stand up for our beliefs. And it can get uncomfortable. So we get out to stretch, but then we never get back in. We experience the seemingly comfortable life that comes with following the crowd, so we abandon our journey.
6. Sometimes the cities we pass look more fun than our destination. We see everything all of the people “outside of the van” are getting to do, and we’re jealous. We want to get out and have fun with them. We still have months left until we get to our destination, but all of these people are having fun now. Sure, we may realize our destination is exceedingly better than this tourist trap, but that temptation of immediate gratification is pulling hard. So we decide to see what this city has to offer. We walk around, explore a little, and then forget about the journey we were suppose to be on. The one we had already signed up for.
7. Sometimes we get tired of flat tires and break downs. We get overwhelmed feeling like we keep failing God. We beat ourselves up for not being able to keep a well-oiled machine. We get tired of the setbacks and can’t shake the nagging voice reminding us of all the times we’ve messed up or broken down. It feels like getting in another van would just be easier. So we find the van that looks new and enticing and pile in.
8. Sometimes we meet someone at a rest stop and decide their journey looks more fun. We make new friends or enter a new relationship with someone who has committed themselves to a different journey. A journey that looks easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. We get swept up by the glitz and glamor of the flashing lights and self-fulfillment. We start believing they’re experiencing a life we’re missing out on, so we join their party bus.
9. Sometimes we have a major wreck and the idea of getting back in the van is terrifying. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, or another tragedy, life happens. And sometimes it’s ugly. It’s messy. And it can get dark. We get angry and curse the van. We think about how the wreck wouldn’t have happened if we would have never gotten in the van to begin with. We harbor resentment. And fear. Nothing good seems to have come from being in the van. So we get out. We walk away. And keep walking.
10. Sometimes, we stay in the van, but we refuse to keep moving. We just stop in the middle of the road. We get comfortable with what we know. We get complacent. And we ignore Jesus’ call to keep moving. We refuse to get out of our comfort zone again. We go to church. Do the right things. Avoid the wrong things. And we fool ourselves into thinking we’re still on the journey. But are you still on a journey if you aren’t moving? You’ll never make it to your destination if you take your foot off the gas.
Have you ever been there? At the point where getting out of the van seemed like the best option?
Even the best road trips experience a few speed bumps and detours. Shake it off and hop back in the van. The destination will be worth the crazy ride. And when you get to ride with Jesus, the journey is pretty awesome too.