|Photo by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, 2010|
Particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, one of the great pleasures in life for my husband and me was and is the road trip!
Nothing too risky, except for the occasional stay in a rented vacation home in a scenic location, ordering takeout, cooking some meals, and spending the days in national and state parks. But our go-to road trip is always to our favorite beach on an island, just 90 minutes away, for a few days of beachcombing, swimming, biking, and kayaking.
On our latest such trip, it dawned on me how much planning and advance preparation were needed just for such a short trip and stay. Despite the casual beach lifestyle, appropriate clothes must be packed for a variety of activities and even a wide range of temperatures, especially during the winter. In February, it’s not unusual to swim in the mid-afternoon, but to enjoy the warmth of a down vest when stargazing!
As our getaway is on an island, I must carefully plan our menus and bring all needed groceries, as well as other necessities such as sunscreen, paper products, and emergency medications. My husband apportions our daily supplements into plastic packets to maintain our health while we’re away.
As I continue to work in the evenings, I have to make sure that my laptop is updated and charged and that I bring all needed files. To allow a more restful time away, I try to do whatever work I can and put out any fires before we leave.
Packing the car, especially if we’re bringing tools or equipment needed for property repairs or maintenance, is a project my husband usually starts the night before, not to mention gassing up and checking the tires and oil.
The morning that we leave, I pack the cooler and fix coffee and oatmeal to eat on the road, and we make sure lights and air conditioning are off and everything is locked at home.
Finally, seat belts buckled, we grin at one another and shout “Road trip!”
But we’re not there yet. Unexpected delays frustrate us – heavy traffic, an accident or construction blocking several lanes or even forcing a detour, car trouble, or suddenly remembering we forgot something essential and must retrace our path before we can set off again. Although we know the way, we usually set the GPS just to be warned of road hazards.
On one occasion, five minutes into our journey we nearly got into an accident when a gopher tortoise decided to cross the highway – even though these creatures are far more common on the island than where we live!
Sooner or later, if we persevere, we make it to the barge landing. Could be a long wait to board, depending on the number of visitors and workers traveling to the island, or it could be even longer in inclement weather. But the sights, sounds and scents of island living tantalize us – the varied blues of the Intracoastal sparkling in the sun, osprey mournfully calling one another, the clean yet salty sea air.
On the island at last! But still the car must be unpacked, food transferred from cooler to fridge, windows opened to let the sun shine in.
Yet it’s all worth it once I find myself alone in the pool, swimming in clear aqua water at a perfect temperature, enjoying the company of a mourning dove perched high on the roof of the pool house, like the Holy Spirit waiting to descend. The sun shines through palm fronds in the shape of a gleaming cross, and I feel all my tension melt away as I watch a pair of osprey circle through the sky and land on a tall Norfolk Island pine where they’re building a nest.
Then later, my husband and I walk the beach, marveling at the intricacy and variety of shells and fossils God scattered there for us to enjoy; at the flocks of pelicans overhead and shore birds nibbling at coquinas, and at the landscape of sand, surf and sky He so masterfully painted for us. A few wispy lace clouds trace through the brilliant blue sky, just enough for the setting sun to later illuminate in gold, orange, mauve, and pink. Still later we’ll lie beneath the stars and contemplate the beauty and vastness of God’s creation (Psalm 19:1).
All too soon it will be time to head home, refreshed and renewed from our road trip, yet sorry to see our Island Paradise in our rear view mirror.
Our most recent road trip reminded me of a much longer, more portentous journey – and one with an even more perfect destination. As Christians who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we know that Heaven is our ultimate and eternal destination (John 3:16). Until we get there, we are on a road trip with unexpected twists, turns, hazards, mountains, valleys and delays.
Preparation for this road trip is quite different from our earthly vacations. We don’t have to pack, for we can’t take anything with us (1 Timothy 6:7), and everything we need and could possibly desire will be there awaiting us (1 Corinthians 2:9). We have the best road map and GPS imaginable – God’s Word! (Psalm 119:105). In fact, the journey will be far smoother and more peaceful if we don’t drive ourselves, but leave our direction to the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who is the ultimate Navigator! (John 16:13).
So how can we prepare for this road trip to Heaven? First and foremost, be sure you’re saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Unless you have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your destination will be the eternal misery of hell, and not the everlasting bliss of Heaven (John 3:18).
Follow His general will for all through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18), worship (Psalm 150), meditation on His Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:97), loving Him and one another (Luke 10:27), and witnessing to others (Psalm 66:16). Follow His specific will for your life by seeking His direction (Psalm 66:16) and boldly walking through the doors He opens (Jeremiah 29:11).
Then, what an amazing, wondrous land awaits us – one that defies imagination! (1 Corinthians 2:9). All the perils and hardships of the journey will be worth it all when we see His face! (1 Corinthians 13:12)
There will be no sun or moon, yet Jesus Christ Himself will light Heaven with His perfect radiance (Revelation 21:23). There will be no sea (Revelation 21:1), for there will be no national boundaries, divisions or conflict – just His Church worshipping Him in perfect unity (1 Corinthians 12). He is lovingly preparing mansions for each of us (John 14:2), uniquely tailored to our preferences and desires, in a perfect City with gates of pearl, streets of gold, and walls of precious stones (Revelation 21:18-21).
Best of all, we shall eternally be united with Lord Jesus Christ and with all of our loved ones in Him, not to mention all the saints through all the ages (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Can you imagine having personal conversations with Moses or the apostle Paul? We will have infinite time to enjoy their company and the fulfilling occupation that our Lord has appointed each of us.
We will be in young, glorified bodies that never age, get sick, die, or even experience pain or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:42-53). We will never have to say goodbye to our loved ones or leave this idyllic Paradise!
Lord, may you guide us on all our earthly road trips but especially on our ultimate journey through life as we travel to Heaven! May we follow Your direction so that we can hear You say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21,23).
Copyright 2022 Laurie Collett