Commuting the wonder

Last night we took our two older boys to the Dodger game, and sat in the outfield grass with fans to watch the big fireworks show at the end. Seeing it all through their eyes was magic. The ride home, though, was unexpectedly spectacular, as we drove from Chavez Ravine to Pacific Coast Highway with sporadic fireworks shows occurring in all directions, just off the freeway, nearly the whole route. The boys sat in the back with their windows down and yelled with amazement the whole way. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was a serendipity of Disney proportions.

I started the day this morning in a brief time of prayer with colleagues in Transit Services. These are the folks who run our shuttles around the Malibu campus and coordinate much of the travel to and from all our campuses for all our schools. It struck me that most of us meet them on the way somewhere. We sit down for the ride as if it’s just the necessary step on the way to what we’re really about. But when they step into a van, they’ve reached their destination for the moment. Wherever we’re going, there they are.

I imagine they see some of us at critical moments. They sit with parents on their way to drop off their daughters and sons for a new life away from home. They sit with visitors on the way to reunions with people they haven’t seen for some time. They sit with Deans and students and visiting VIPs on the way to new relationships and initiatives and introductions that could change the direction of lives. Here we are, in their four-wheeled offices, imagining ourselves on the way to a real appointment.

They probably often see us at our worst, as they are confronted with our expectations of when and how we would like to wait for our next appointment. I think of Louis CK’s brilliant description of how “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” when I notice myself in a fully functioning vehicle on a brilliantly engineered overpass in a complete state of panic over what time it is now and might be in the future. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t want to be reminded that I am subject to time and space. A shuttle stop is sometimes a station where I have lamented my limits, and assigned blame for my humanity. Maybe it’s a more spiritual place than I’ve given it credit.

God’s people watched God’s faithfulness turn the most advanced vehicles on the planet irrelevant and pave a highway through an impassable sea to enable their route to freedom. Yet they continued to struggle with the idea of being “on the way.” Eventually their unwillingness to trust their Transportation Coordinator resulted in forty more years of learning to trust God in the journey as a prerequisite for arriving at their destination.

I’ve sat on The 10 many, many times in fear or anger or utter astonishment that God would abandon me to traffic. But there I was last night, on that same route, lost in wonder love and praise, with a choir of pre-gradeschoolers in a hollering rapture.

The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus “on the way.” In Mark 5, on the way to a really important destination in highly respectable company, Jesus suddenly turns to the heavy traffic around him and says, “who touched me?” He stops on the way to offer an affirmation of a desperate woman’s faith, and bestow an individual blessing of peace and freedom in the midst of a pressing crowd. It is a life-changing story that takes place while everyone else is waiting for “on the way” to be over.

I sometimes stare with anxious determination at the radiating blue dot on my Google map, willing it’s halted, unsatisfying movement to the green dot at point B as if there was nothing outside that tiny marker that meant anything. And yet, there is God. All over the map.

May I become willing today to notice who and what is on the way, and value the journey for the hidden wonders each moment of pavement holds. May I remember that there is no space I am in God is not occupying with his purposes and his story. May I trust the driver with my time, and give my attention to my part on the journey.

May I miss no appointment already taking place in the front seat of my Camry.

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