Last time I mentioned a story that illustrates to a small degree what traveling expectantly looks like. It took place the same day we visited Ephesus.
Our tour ended in Kusadasi, Turkey. This modern port city serves as the hub for excursions to ancient Ephesus which lies some 18 kilometers inland. After arriving in Kusadasi, I took off with my then 13-year-old son Sumner to wander the town. I had only two hopes for the afternoon. Hopes mind you, not expectations – I’d used those up back in Ephesus.
First, I hoped that we might find Sumner a Turkish soccer jersey since he’d been collecting them from other countries in the region. Second, I prayed that God might redeem the disappointment of Ephesus with something special here. I looked expectantly to God to surprise us. How he did that was up to him.
The photos here tell some of the story as we wandered the streets and shops of Kusadasi. But what they don’t show is how God took that afternoon and transformed it into something meaningful. Instead, each encounter with shopkeepers or people on the street had a subtle significance, not because of any dramatic insight or revelation, but because we were simply open and present, content with whatever came our way.
You can chalk it up to a change in attitude, but traveling expectantly is more than that. It’s the realization that how your trip turns out isn’t up to you but up to God. In fact, sometimes we actually get in the way.
In Ephesus, for example, I expected the ancient stones to speak to me, to declare God’s presence there and reveal some historic or transcendent insight. Instead, they were to us, as my other son Connor noted, just a pile of rocks.
But in Kusadasi, by traveling expectantly, looking for God to reveal his agenda not conform to mine, he did speak to me. Not through mute stones of the past but through living people of today. In the time together with Sumner on a shared quest, in the give and take of bartering for a handbag with a charming yet crafty salesman and in the extravagant gestures of an old man who showed me postcards that had to be at least twenty years old, I gained insights and had meaningful exchanges that I could never have scripted on my own.
The surprise in Kusadasi, as is often the case with traveling expectantly, is that there was no surprise, at least no big blow-your-socks-off startling moment or singular dramatic event. Instead, we experienced a number of simple, yet satisfying encounters that revealed that God understood what we needed far more than we did ourselves.
I’ve had many other trips that provided more dramatic examples of traveling expectantly, but few where I experienced such a pronounced contrast in the same day between traveling with expectations (Ephesus) and traveling expectantly (Kusadasi).
And certainly no other that offered “genuin” fake watches…