July seems to be a good time to get away. I say that because it feels like half of our congregation is “down the shore,” and I’m currently wandering the halls of our office suite in the Ministries Center wondering where everyone is who is supposed to work here.
But I guess summer is for traveling. At least that’s what other people tell me. I try to avoid it myself. My long-suffering spouse, Abby, will tell you that I am an absolute curmudgeon when it comes to getting mentally or physically prepared for a trip. I loathe packing my suitcase, and tend to imagine the worst-case scenarios that can happen to us in the car or on the plane. And at this stage in my family’s life, driving for hours in a contained vehicle with a toddler and an eight-month-old is hardly a therapeutic experience.
Which is not to say I don’t enjoy seeing new things once I get there. Sure, I’ve been all over the country, and to Europe and North Africa, but I just am not a fan of the “getting there” part of it all. And yet I entered a profession that necessitates a kind of nomadic flexibility. Ordained ministry requires that we go where God’s Spirit calls us.
Yet the biblical witness doesn’t give me much solace when reading about folks who wander from home. Abraham left Haran and then had to pretend his wife Sarah was his sister just to save his own skin. Lot’s wife left home and made the mistake of turning back to see it one last time and ended up as just a lump of Morton’s table salt. The Prodigal Son left home with his sights on the big city, and came back smelling like pig slop. The list goes on.
No thank you. I’m quite happy to simply sit on my own front porch and watch the world go by.
But of course, I can’t. None of us can, really. The world seems to be getting smaller, and our common call in Christ to be in the world, and seek after God’s hope for the world means we are all called to find a way to travel the journey.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author makes note of some of Scripture’s great pillars of the faith, who died before having received all the promises God made them, “but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” (Heb. 11:13-14)
Maybe that’s what all of us are still doing. Whether we’re at the shore or the mountains, walking in Center City or going about the business of our lives here locally, maybe we’re all just trying to find Home. Maybe it isn’t about getting away, but as Frederick Buechner says, “Getting Someplace.” And maybe this side of eternity, we will only see it from a distance. Which is to say our hearts never stop searching for It. For Home.
So I guess I should offer traveling mercies…for all of us.
But I’m still not packing my suitcase with glee.