CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP)–Willie Nelson once noted the joys of the journey. He looked forward to being “on the road again.”
I know exactly what he’s talking about. Recently, I rode my Harley to work, and that eight-mile ride struck a chord. The sound of the tires singing on the pavement, the tone of the pipes and the rhythm of the engine, the symphony of sensory input were all music to my soul. I was happy to be on the road again.
As I was coming in, I relished the momentary coolness of the air as I passed between two wetlands. I could feel the wind gently blowing across my arms as I accelerated. Then, my favorite part of my short journey hit me like one of Willie’s long lost friends: I lost myself in the moment as I leaned the bike first one way and then another through the gentle curves of the off ramp.
Yes, I said the “off ramp.” That quarter mile stretch of asphalt that connects one road to another was the best part of the trip. Why? Because, for those few heartbeats, I forgot about where I came from and where I was going. I was lost in the moment. The journey itself became the reason for the ride, not the destination.
You see, that’s one of the great mysteries and pleasures of riding a motorcycle. For bikers, the destination is secondary. The journey itself is the point. Once we get where we’re going, we’re already looking forward to the next ride, not the next place.
Far too many of us have become obsessed with the goal, whatever it might be. We want to finish this, accomplish that. We’re so busy looking for the exit signs in life that we miss the scenery that passes by along the way.
In May I rejoiced as hundreds of our students graduated. They’ve reached a turning point in their lives. At the same time, I grieved for some as I realized that for many of them, college was just a means to an end. The end was always before them, their motivating force, the prize dangled in front of their eyes. They were so consumed with moving on that they missed the joy of the journey they completed.
Christians are the same way. We’re in such a rush to get through our present circumstances that the beauty of the moment is a blur in the mirror. Yet, the Bible teaches that the journey is part of the goal. God is working in our lives every moment. We can glorify God now as well as in eternity. In God’s economy, the means are part of the end.
Unfortunately, in our rush to get through today, we forget to marvel at what God is doing right now. The mile markers of our lives become forgettable reminders of the distance of the future rather than the milestones of our past. We’d rather today be a memory, a speed bump in life thankfully behind us, than relish today for the memories that it will create.
So, as this week hurries by, as you mark off one more month on the calendar, as you’re tempted to look up the road, past today, remember to slow down and enjoy the ride. Join Willie on the road, as he put it so lyrically, “Goin’ places that I’ve never been. Seein’ things that I may never see again.” Better yet, see today as the psalmist saw it, “This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad and in it.
Peter Beck serves as an assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C.