In my August In Good Faith column, I relate the story of the craziest road trip I've ever taken. And then quote St. Paul. Happy Summer everybody!
The most memorable road trip I ever took was driving from Maryland to California. By myself. In three days.
This was back in my early 20’s so I was young and, if not stupid, at least energetic. I was offered a job in the East Bay area that started, well, as soon as possible. So I hopped in my dark blue 1985 Ford Bronco II and hit the road. This was long before cell phones and satellite radio and GPS, so it was just me, my AM/FM radio, and a bunch of maps for 3,000 miles. I listened to a lot of country music and pulpit-pounding, fire and brimstone preachers -- the third option being static.
The only real SNAFU was breaking down outside Omaha, Nebraska, and spending five hours in a gas station awaiting the arrival of a new fuel pump. I was just glad I wasn’t driving a Subaru or a Volvo since, if it took five hours to find a Ford part, I’d probably still be waiting.
One of the things my teenage children can’t and won’t ever be able to relate to is being stranded on the side of the road. “What do you mean you couldn’t just use your cell phone to call a tow truck?” They have trouble relating to the idea that in the olden days, if you blew out a tire or your car overheated on a dark and lonely stretch of highway you just had to pull over to the shoulder and wait. You were literally at the mercy of some “good samaritan” who happened to pull over to help since there was no cell phone safety net of always being in touch.
For those who can barely remember the time before our current era of hyper-connectivity, or who never experienced it, a better analogy might be those times in our lives when we feel emotionally and spiritually cut off. Even though the internet literally offers us the entire world at our fingertips, there are still moments when we feel disconnected and isolated; when we feel as if we’re standing on the side of the road with nary a car in sight; when “no signal” isn’t about our data plan but our very souls.
It’s moments like these when we realize our cell phone coverage only takes us so far in life and that we need more than this to thrive through the experience of joy and fruitful relationship. At times like these, I always think about St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome in the early days of the Church. Writing to a group who had already experienced persecution with the potential for much more, he reminded them that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
He goes on to list a bunch of worst case scenarios: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You could certainly add being stranded on the side of a lonely road on a dark and stormy night with no cell phone.
The good news in this is that God never abandons us or leaves us stranded or refuses to listen when we cry out. And that nothing that we do or fail to do can ever separate us from God’s love for us. Sure, we sometimes run out of spiritual gas along the road of life, but God is always there to offer comfort, solace, strength, and continuing relationship.