Yesterday afternoon my wife and I piled the boys in the car and drove off for Decatur just to get out of the house. Decatur is about a twenty minute drive, and we figured we would just go to Walmart, take the kids out to McDonalds, and head home. We didn’t make it to Wal-Mart. We eventually made it to McDonalds, just not the McDonalds in Decatur, IN. We ended up stopping at a McDonalds off of I-75 about twenty minutes south of Toledo, OH.
When we left the house we had absolutely no thought of going to Ohio let alone all the way to Toledo. Just south of the Decatur City limits is a highway that goes to Ohio. Jenny saw a sign for Wilshire, OH and as a joke she said “Lets go to Wilshire.” Without hesitating I said “O.K.” and off we went. What we thought would be just a little road trip across the Ohio State line and back, turned into a little impromptu tour of Northwest Ohio, eventually leading all the way to Toledo.
On the way home I started thinking that maybe our little unplanned road trip is how God intended the Christian journey to be. We would have been satisfied with a quick afternoon trip to Decatur, but God had much more than that in mind for us. He led us all the way to Toledo. It wasn’t a straight shot all the way either, we ended going through towns like Wilshire, Ohio City, Rockford, Lima, Findlay, Bowling Green, Perrysburg, and many more.
I think many times we see the Christian Journey more like an afternoon trip to Decatur, than a road trip to Toledo, and the sad thing is we like it that way. God is offering us a full life, He wants to take us places we have never been before, places where have never even thought of going, he wants to move us outside of our comfort zone. But instead of taking him up on his offer we drive to Decatur, go to Wal-mart and then go home. We stop short of embracing the full life that He offers us.
After Wilshire we stopped in Ohio City to load up on snacks, and then ended up in Rockford where we decided to buy a map of Ohio. It wasn’t until we bought the map that we even thought of going to Toledo. The map let us know where we were, gave us options of where we could go, and let us know how we to get there. It gave us a point of reference.
On the way home from Toledo I started thinking about the map, and about the different ways we can relate to the Bible. I think one way to relate to the Bible is to see it as merely a rule book containing little more than a series of commands to follow, with no room for freedom. The other way to relate to the Bible is to see it as more of a road map.
Obviously the Bible does contain specific commandments. But when we look it as nothing more than a rule book we miss the beauty, depth and richness of the story. We become so focused on separating the black from the white, that we miss the big picture, we don’t take the time to enjoy the journey, and we miss the beautiful, colorful scenery God has placed all around us.
Another way to think about it is this: Let’s say that instead of buying a map in Rockford we bought an Ohio state driving manual. We could have sat in the parking lot of the gas station and studied the book till we had it memorized, but when we pulled back out on the road we would still have no idea of how to get to where we wanted to go. In fact the map showed us not only how to get to our destination, but it was only in opening the map to see the big picture, and starting to drive that our destination was revealed.
As I said before a map gives us a point of reference. It helps us understand where we are and lets us know where we can go from there. A map helps us make good decisions about which roads to take, A map gives us the big picture and give us confidence that we know where we are going. I also think that a map offers us freedom. When we open the map and a destination is revealed we still have a choice about which roads to take. The map revealed that Ohio had a great highway system and we discovered that there was more than one way to get to Toledo, as long as we used the map as guide we would be fine.
In Sunday school a while back the teacher was talking about his life before and after coming to Christ. First he drew a vertical line which represented the will of God. Next he drew a horizontal line that represented how he lived his life before Christ. Last he drew another vertical line right on top of the first line, which represented how he tries to live his life now. The teacher went on to talk about the importance of being in the Word, and how being in the Word helps us line up our lives with the will of God.
I remember thinking that this was a very narrow way of seeing both the Bible and the Christian life. I wanted to offer another view. To represent the will of God I would draw two parallel lines with some room between them. In various places between the lines there would be dots, which represent various stopping points along the way. To represent a life lived within the will of God, I would draw a line that moves freely between those lines, curving to the left or the right to intersect with the various dots along the way. I think this second picture gives a fuller representation of the freedom that is found in Christ.
We almost didn’t make it all the way to Toledo. As we were pulling into Bowling Green I started to have my doubts. My wife wanted me to drive the rest of the way,because I am much better at finding my way through strange city’s and I can also become the world’s worst side seat driver in those situations. “What if we wreck?” “What if we get lost.” “I have a bad feeling about this” “What if the car breaks down” and a thousand other thoughts started going through my head.
On the north side of Bowling Green we saw a bowling alley, and I said “I know instead of going to Toledo lets go bowling in Bowling Green, that’d be a pretty good story to tell when people asked us what we did over the weekend” Jenny wanted to push on to Toledo, because that is where we said we were going and she didn’t want to stop short now.
Here we were at least a couple hundred miles from home and less than forty miles from Toledo and we still almost stopped short. Its like were standing on the banks of the Jordon with the promised land in sight, and I was saying I don’t know if this is such a good idea. I think we should stop here. I don’t believe God will take us any farther. I almost listened to the majority report in my head, and turned back. I wonder how often that happens. How many times we make it past Decatur, past the state line, past Wilshire, and when we are almost to Toledo, we stop short at Bowling Green.
I’m glad we made that right turn before Decatur and that we made it all the way to Toledo. God used this trip to speak to me in a powerful way. I think that sometimes putting our selves in a position to hear God takes stepping out in an act of faith. It takes embracing the Christian Journey as an unplanned road trip to Toledo, instead of seeing it as just a quick trip to Decatur.