Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on the road. Periodically, I take trips to see people. If it is a distant trip, that means a plane ticket and flight. But if it is less than five hundred miles, I prefer to drive. Flying used to be fun, but that is not the word I use to describe it any more. Driving may not be fun either, but is does seem more sane to me. At least, I am in control of my schedule and I feel more free.
I am not naïve that taking a car trip is profound. At one level, there certainly is nothing spiritual about it. The intent was to hop in the car and travel from one point to the other. The trip can be measured in miles or in time. Sometimes we say, “the trip was about four hundred miles.” Other times we will say something like, “the trip took six hours.” Finally, all that really matters is that we make the trip and arrive at our destination.
My trip yesterday was not spectacular in any way. Fortunately, it was uneventful. There were no mishaps---no near wrecks. Sometimes, I am amazed at how far I can drive and apparently not be too observant. There was nothing especially noteworthy about the scenery. Often I can be a little disappointed in myself that I notice less of what is “there,” than I am sure is “there.” Perhaps that is because I just want to finish the trip and arrive at my destination.
I think it was this last dawning realization that set me to thinking. I began to think about trips. I immediately went in two directions with my mind. The first direction sent me into my memory bank and the famous song by Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again.” A quick research told me that Willie wrote and debuted the song in 1980. I thought it was older than that. I like the song.
The other direction that my mind went was to recall how important the metaphor of “journey” is in a number of different spiritual traditions. Often life itself is portrayed as a journey. It occurred to me that we could talk about life as a journey. However, it takes on even more meaning if I talk about it as a spiritual journey. I find this an engaging idea.
Like my trip yesterday, the journey of life has a beginning and an end. Certainly, the beginning is the day of our birth. While we could say the destination of life’s journey is death, I think there are better options. Of course, we will die. We could see life’s destination as heaven or the kingdom---two significant biblical images. I have nothing against either of these. I can hope to wind up “there,” whatever the kingdom or heaven “there” turns out to be.
However, I prefer to talk about the duration of life’s spiritual journey as a love story. And the destination of this journey is Love Itself. I imagine death as the doorway into Love Itself. Instead of extinction, death is more like a matriculation---a beginning of new life.
If life’s journey is a love story, then surely it is not a solitary trip. It has to include friends. And this took me back to Willie Nelson’s song. Willie’s song opens with these words: “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again. The life I love is making music with my friends.” These words can be appropriated for the spiritual journey of life.
If it is a journey of love, then I can wait to get on the road again. Willie says the life he loves is making music with his friends. I would say the same thing. I am not talking about literally making music, but I do think life’s journey as a love story is musical---harmonious, melodic and sweet. Like Willie says, this journey is “goin’ places that I’ve never been. And it is “seein’ things I may never see again.” Perhaps this is the secret of life as a spiritual journey. As a spiritual journey, we will see things that I might not ever see and I might be taken places that I have never been.
I like another one of Willie’s lines in the song. He talks about a band of his friends going down the highway. In fact, Willie says, “We’re the best of friends.” This is the place I stop and take stock. Am I part of just such a band? Do I have “the best of friends” traveling with me? For me this is the question of community. Am I part of a nurturing, nourishing community of travelers? Am I part of someone else’s love story?
If the answer is affirmative, then I need to cultivate my own love story and those stories of my friends. If I realize I am traveling alone too much of the time, then I have time. I have time to get on the road again. I have time to look for spiritual travelers who would be willing to let me join their band of folks on the way. If they are a true community, they always will be open and inclusive.
I had to laugh, as I pulled into my destination. I was home; the trip was finished. But my spiritual journey is not at all finished. I am thankful to be on the road again with the best of friends. I am heading into the heart of Love Itself.