One more thought relating to Christmas and travel…
This last Sunday in church, the pastor, in recounting the Christmas story, made this comment in passing:
“Mary and Joseph experienced a great wonder with the birth of Jesus. But they had no idea what was to come.”
It struck me that such is our experience in travel…and in life.
Sometimes, you have amazing moments on a trip that you think you’ll treasure forever. However, you’re not home more than a few weeks (or even days) before they’ve already faded faster than a reality TV star from the public’s awareness.
Other times, everything goes wrong on a trip – lost luggage, missed connections, bad food, rotten weather, bacteria hitching a ride in your belly or all of the above. At the time, your trip seems like a catastrophe. But if you’re like me, you look back and realize that often the most memorable – and meaningful – trips are the ones where something went wrong.
Both the good times and the bad ones are relative and you have no idea what they’ll eventually mean to you because, like Mary at the time of Jesus’ birth, you can’t know what is to come. You get wonder and sorrow all mixed together and only time will show you how it all fits and plays out.
For example, Luke 2:19 tells us that after the amazement and awe of the shepherds, Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That’s the good wonder. But jump down several verses and we read in Luke 2:35b Simeon telling her, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Not so good.
Fast forward even further, say three decades or so, and you see Mary watching her son die on a cross. She has no idea how anything good can come from this. Three days after that, however, as she stands in a garden near an empty tomb, the world looks – and is – utterly different.
I have to make great efforts to remember this both during hard times and also during the heady anticipation phase of a trip. Too often, right before I leave, I find myself thinking about what will happen or how the trip will turn out. But I can never really know that, which, ironically is one of the reasons many of us like to travel.
It’s a funny thing: We travel for the novelty and surprise and yet in our daily lives, we tend to want it all figured out. What travel reveals is that if we rest in the present and enjoy it rather than worrying about the future, both turn out better.
Even during our worst travel or life experiences we can’t know how it will all turn out or how God will use them. But we can trust that at some point, no matter how bad – or even how wondrous – things may seem right now on this trip or in this life, God will work them together for our good.
You have no idea.