John Steinbeck's delightful little volume Travels with Charley fascinates me each time I read it. It tells how the author and his dog took to the highways, traveling hundreds of miles, encountering all sorts of interesting people and intriguing situations.
I find myself charmed by that sort of thing, and I got a quick taste of it a few years ago when I drove our youngest son across eight states to get him settled in an apartment near a school he would be attending. We swapped turns driving his pickup, spent several nights in motels, and by the time we rolled into the last driveway, we'd covered 2,569 miles.
We drove through towns we'd never heard of, over rivers we couldn't pronounce, ate at a few spots we wouldn't recommend. Small talk and silence. Deep discussions and laughter. Hamburgers and Cokes, jokes and snoozes. But the best part of all? Being with my twenty-year-old son. Sharing feelings we hadn't talked about for much too long. With a 5 x 8 U-Haul behind us and nothing but miles of highway in front of us, life was distilled to stuff that mattered.
Why did I love the trip? Because I love my son. I cannot tell you the number of times I found myself overcome with nostalgia as I thought about the inescapable reality of six simple words: He is now on his own.
As the two of us walked together toward the airline terminal where I was to catch a return flight home, we arrived at a small sign: "Only ticketed passengers beyond this point." Suddenly he wrapped his long arms around me and whispered the words every father longs to hear from his own: "I love you, Dad." I held him tightly and recalled two decades of hugs from this boy who is now a man. I replayed childhood scenes of that little towhead and forced myself not to cling.
As my plane lifted high above the blue highways, I asked the Lord for four things: the unselfishness to release him, the vision to encourage him, the faithfulness to pray for him, and the wisdom to be there for him whenever or wherever that may be. God knows I'm willing to do whatever.
I was even willing to crawl back into that pickup when school was over and take on those same 2,569 miles in the opposite direction.
Get off the freeway and travel some blue highways. You'll love the scenery. And, more important, you need the break.
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