I have written often in this space about journeys. I have talked about life as a journey. I have suggested that following Jesus is a spiritual journey. I have shared my feeling that life is often not about the destination, but about the journey. There is joy is the journey. There was a decent rock band named Journey. I believe in the metaphor of the journey.
But in recent days, "journey" seems like much too calm a word to describe my life. It feels more like a Griswold family vacation than a simple journey. Sometimes the road we travel makes very little sense. Today I'd like to share a personal story with you about a family trip from nearly 40 years ago that reminds me that such vacations do not not always bring joy. Or even sanity.
By the summer of 1976 my father (who was known for such things) had adopted a new personal passion- white water canoeing! He had even built hi sown "rag bottom" canoe from a kit. As part of this obsession, he had designed a family trip that would take us on a cross country drive from Greensboro, NC to the Buffalo River in Arkansas. My mother and I were less than thrilled, but Dad was so excited that we got on board. We traveled with another family that Dad knew from his work with the Boy Scouts. We had almost nothing in common with these folks, and having them on the trip turned out to be...interesting. To say the least. But off we went, two families pulling small camper with canoes and kayaks on top. We were told the trip would be exciting and the Buffalo River beautiful and epic. I guess it was all in your perspective...
Among the events of that trip (there are far too many to mention them all) that are still lodged in my memory are driving an hour out of the way to visit Sam Houston's School House. This turned out to be a one room building with a window you could look in where young Sammy had once been a student. Thrilling! There was the night we camped just to the west of the Mississippi River, and as we lay in our our little Scotty camper I could hear mosquitoes buzzing like B52 bombers all around my head. I swatted as fast as I could but simply couldn't keep up. For the only time I can remember, my parents actually moved us to a motel for the night. When we examined the camper the next morning, there were monster blood stains all over the walls where we had killed mosquitoes. It was horrifying!
But all of that paled in comparison to the experience of actually trying to canoe the Buffalo River. It was scenic...I think. But I don't really recall, because what I remember most clearly is that the river had no water in it. Arkansas was in the midst of a drought, and the river had simply dried up. For the better part of 8 hours, in 95 degree heat, we CARRIED our boats down that river bed. We got to canoe in certain places, but for the most part, my dad and I and the other man and his son were merely glorified pack mules. And the other son...whined and complained and cried and moaned the entire time. It was awful. My family had a lot of wonderful family vacations. This one- my last big one with my parents before leaving high school- does not make that list. We couldn't wait to just go home. And we did. But not before a part of our joy, a part of our family bond...died. The trip would later be something we could look back on and laugh about. But that took the passage of time.
Like that trip or the Griswold's pilgrimage to Wally World, family vacations often come with frustration, pain, confusion and anger. So does life. My life is full of great joy and many blessings. But sometimes...especially lately...it feels like I keep reaching places where the Buffalo River is dry and Wally World is closed. It hurts. And I struggle with my faith. Many of you have noticed a dip in my spirits and my normally positive attitude. And I have felt and appreciated your love.
I began this blog in 2009 with words from the late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg's song, Along the Road. At this point in the journey I turn to that song once again, although sharing different lyrics...