This past weekend, a group of young leaders from our church went on a road trip together. The main purpose of this trip was to attend the Generations Conference, hosted by the PCSEBA in Sacramento. The conference served as a great cultural experience. The evening time following the conference was spent at fabulous Old-Town Sacramento. The night ended with some good tea among great friends. As I compose this post, we are crossing the Golden Gate bridge, entering San Francisco. All of us are anticipating seeing some cool sights and indulging in tasty eats.
Having gone on a few road trips with people, prior to this one, I can safely say I have developed a “Theology of Road-Trips.” Far from being simply a means of freightage, road trips embody the marriage of theology to methodology. Here are the five points of Road-Trip Theology:
1. Freeways Form Friendships. As humans, we crave community. We were created for it and are wired to function in it. When else would you spend a prolonged amount of time, in such close quarters, with other people? Because you have ample time, topics of various genres are brought up and discussed. We are able to find out a lot about people in this environment. Getting to know one another allows us to function cohesively as one team or tribe. The more time we spend with people, the better we can understand them. The time investment put into road trips provides a long term benefit for each party involved. This is why road trips provide excellent opportunity for friendship development.
2. Spontaneity Stimulates Leadership Development. Road trips can take on a life of their own. The unexpected is inevitable. Whether it is getting lost in an unfamiliar city, choosing the right place for good cuisine or accidentally driving into a neighborhood of a sketchy character. Decisions need to be made quickly. Leadership skills are honed and sharpened in this environment. Teamwork is also created and sustained. Problem solving takes on a whole new nature. Can all the people in your group agree where to go eat? What about the time of departure from place to place? What to do when a conflict arises? How can it be handled in a distinctly Christian manner? All of this is an ample opening for someone to take the platform and lead. Regardless whether the circumstance was pleasurable or stressful, spontaneous variety brings out the leader from within the person.
3. Permanent Memories Are Made. If I was to ask you right now, to think of the most epic road trip you have ever been on, would you be able to give me an answer? I bet you would be able to give me more than one tale of epic proportion. Trips like these make a permanent imprint upon our memories. We remember the friendships that were formed. We remember the fun that we had. We remember the conversations that were stirred up and continued. We remember the stress that we endured. We remember the exhaustion that took place following the trip. We remember what we talked about. We remember who was with us. Memories that will last a life time are created during this time. In a way, our memories shape and form our future attitude. This of course can go either way, depending on the temperament of your trip.
4. Patience Is Put Into Practice. Anyone who has ever been in a vehicle, for more than a few hours, with more than the person whom they see in the mirror every morning, knows this point is true. The genesis of a road trip is fun, fuzzy and enthusiastic. As the trip comes to a close, depending on travel distance and varying moods, people are people. Character deficiencies are magnified. Driving styles are challenged. Backseat drivers become more vocal than ever. Varying degrees of appetites and thirsts are put on full display. Sanctification is the spiritual gift that everyone espouses and puts to frequent practice. But the great thing is, when all is said and driven, everyone still remains friends without superficial cordiality. After surviving with several people in one car for seven hours, you are virtually ready to deal with anything in life. Ok, that last point was a bit hyperbolic. You might disagree with the hyperbole depending on the trips you have been on. But the point is that patience during road trips is demanded, demonstrated and perfected.
5. An Alternate Atmosphere Refreshes The Mind. An unfamiliar landscape provides for a fresh perspective. Your road trip will inevitably take you somewhere, outside of your customary proximity. Your mind is refreshed and your senses are rejuvenated when you are taken out of a familiar context. Enjoying a boutique iced hazelnut latte from Emporio Rulli while people watching in the middle of Union Square really helps to clear your mind from incessant worries. Having a phenomenal lunch with friends on the sixth floor, overlooking downtown San-Francisco is an ambiance attributing to a great conversation. Speeding down the sloping streets of downtown San-Fran on a trolley is a refreshing way to regain focus. Visiting a predominately Slavic neighborhood replete with authentic Russian food makes for a deliciously cultural experience. All of these items are fairly simple pleasure of life. But, they go a long way in resetting your mindset and providing much needed energy to take on life once you are back to reality. It is a healthy practice to visit new places and create distance from the assumed locale. The mind is refreshed, the senses are stimulated and experiences are created.
What do road trips have in common with theology? Absolutely everything. If we are to live out a life that is distinctly Christian and intentionally Christ-like, our methodology should be governed by our theology. Our passion for knowledge about God should consume us as much as is our passion to give glory to God — by way of our life style. Road-trips, or any other event we become a part of, is another opportunity to incarnate gospel-centered principles into the fabric of our interactions. It is during this time that our attitude and actions are voicing the position of our heart. If we have been quickened by Christ and are heirs of an eternal Kingdom, everything we do is a glory-giving activity. Including adventure-stricken road trips.
Question: What is your favorite part about going on road-trips? How have you grown spiritually while being on a road-trip practically?