Today is my birthday. Today I turn 35 years old. And today I drove from my birthplace to my current home.
You see, my birthday, by virtue of falling near the end of November, is always somewhere around the Thanksgiving holiday. For the past few years, Tara and I have alternated which side of the family we visit at Thanksgiving time. This year, we drove down to West Virginia to see Tara’s family: for three days, twelve of us stayed in the home of Tara’s aunt and uncle who live in a very small coal-mining village south of Charleston.
Thirty-five years ago, my father was a pastor in a small town west of Charleston. Thirty-five years ago, he drove my mother to Charleston so I could enter the world in a hospital of good repute. And for thirty-five years, my life – like yours – has been wandering from place to place, from experience to experience, from decision to decision.
And today, on our trip home, I drove right past the hospital where I was born. Ten hours later, we arrived at our home.
The long road here took thirty-five years. The short road – although today it didn’t feel very short! – took just ten hours.
That got me thinking: on several occasions, I have heard Christians say that they wish God would put a huge billboard in the sky, drop a message from the heavens, or appear in the form of an angel and tell them what to do, what decision to make, which direction to move. We often speak platitudes to each other such as “God’s timing isn’t our timing,” “It will all make sense someday,” or “You just have to have faith.” But those aren’t always convincing in the moment. And they may just be platitudes: statements that have “been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful” (says Google).
At this point, I could write something like this: “My life, for all its ups and downs, has been marked by God’s blessings. And because of that, I wouldn’t take the short road over the long road for anything! I’m glad that it took this long to get here, because the journey has been worth every minute.” But that would be another platitude.
Take a few moments to read the first eleven verses of the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes. It helps to keep things in perspective on days like one’s birthday.
Here is what I will say about the long and short roads. Had I never traveled the long road, I would not have realized the significance of the short road. If I had not been born in Charleston, today’s drive would have been simply a long road trip. The course of my life to this point made today’s drive more meaningful for me than it would be for anyone else.
We wait for God to show us the way to go, but in the meantime our experiences form us into who we are becoming. God uses them to form us after the image of Jesus Christ. The long road defines us.
And then we remember, from scripture, that “generations come and generations go.”
Happy birthday, everyone. I’m happy to be on this journey with you all.