Make the most of every mile


“Are we there yet!”

These are famous words proclaimed by the mouths of children and adults alike on long road trips. It doesn’t generally matter how far from home you’re traveling. The whole point of the trip is getting there, wherever that may be. Time in cramped vehicles on the road is but a means to a desired end.

As we were making our way to Mobile, Alabama, for our summer mission trip with Mission Serve, I heard these words early and often. The first utterance occurred at the corner of Sixth Street and Community Drive. We had barely left the church parking lot. The engine was barely warmed and the air conditioner hadn’t even had a chance to cool the cabin of the bus yet.

These simple truths, however, couldn’t stop a snarky teenager from popping the question and causing the whole bus to erupt into laughter. I rolled my eyes knowing full well this would not be the last time I would hear this particular question.

Some road trips do seem to drag on forever. This trip down Interstate 65 was certainly one such trip. The miles seemed to stretch on endlessly. It felt like we were getting nowhere fast, quite literally.

As I was driving, I would glance periodically at the GPS to monitor our estimated time of arrival. For approximately an hour, I watched as the distance between us and our location decreased, but the amount of time remaining on our journey increased.

For every mile we traveled, the GPS added an extra 5 minutes of travel time. It was rage inducing. I found myself, as I drove the bus, angrily uttering the famous phrase under my breath, “Are we there yet?” No sooner had the words left my mouth than I heard a still small voice in my head ask, “Why are you wishing this time away? Don’t miss the meaning in these miles.”

I generally enjoy driving and have found some of the best, most memorable interactions take place in vehicles on the way to and from places. This is true with my family, with friends, with church groups and with sports teams.

A great deal of life is lived as we’re going, and while we’re going, conversations are had, memories are made and relationships are developed and deepened. Wishing all of those moments away, in all of their awkward and uncomfortable glory, is a massive mistake and poor stewardship of the potential of the journey God has placed before us.

I can’t help but wonder how often we treat life in general like we do long road trips. We become so fixated on getting there, whether that be a new stage in life with our children, a new level in our education or professional development, the completion of a heavy task or long project or the end of some other life goal. We just want to get it done.

As we consider all of the energy and effort these endeavors require of us, do we at times ask the question, “Are we there yet?”

I’m reminded that the invitation Jesus issued to his followers was an invitation to a journey. Over and over in the early portions of the gospels, Jesus calls to various folks, “Come and follow me.” For them, it was a call to a three-year road trip of walking across the Judean countryside. It was a trip that would change their lives as they lived them.

It’s an invitation that Jesus continues to issue to us. And as we follow him on the road of life, we will be joined by a great many people who will add incalculable value and meaning to the miles and moments of our lives. The many miles we travel with others are opportunities and gifts to be enjoyed, not issues to be overcome and abruptly ended.

As trite as it may sound, the journey is to some degree its own destination. There is potential meaning in every mile traveled. There is abundant life in every shared breath of stale, slow-to-cool air in closed-in, cramped quarters. There is community and connection to be made in every uncomfortable car or bus ride. Whether the journey be metaphorical or literal, there is meaning in every mile. Make the most of them.

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