It was mid morning under a gray Kentucky sky. While almost spring it looked an awful lot like winter to me. I put on Copeland’s In Motion, one of my favorite albums from my college days. Around the time it came out, I have a very distinct memory of listening to it on a very different road trip along much of the same road.
The year was 2005. It was also spring break if I remember right. I was driving back form Chicago after seeing my girlfriend at the time who went to Moody Bible Institute. I had recently been accepted as well, but didn’t quite grasp that we were going to break up in about a month while I was standing in LaGuardia waiting to board a plane to Argentina. Good thing it was over the phone. And so I moved back to Knoxville in the fall instead of Chicago, ended up completing my degree through Liberty.
That trip ended up being the first and only time I did the Knoxville-Chicago road trip. Which is probably good because Indiana is supremely boring. Back to Friday though when I was listening to Aaron Marsh exhort Amanda to pin her wings down (if you know this reference, I’m glad we’re friends). This was the first road trip to Louisville since April of 2014 when I came up for Together 4 The Gospel (T4G) and to meet with my doctoral adviser for the program in Christian Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
We had a great talk about postmodern philosophy, aesthetics, and presuppositional apologetics. Neither he nor I knew I would withdraw from the program before the year was out, but it was good time nonetheless. Along the way, I met up with Richard Clark and he agreed to let me write for Christ and Pop Culture, which I still do (and you should check out)
This time around, I presented a paper for regional ETS and had a much overdue catch up with my friend Todd. On the drive back, my mind was processing through it all. You know, all the road trips. All the journeys, some of which seem to be dead ends.
And it made me think that I needed to start writing down about the road that lead to here. Here currently being Knoxville, but by the time you read this, if it is shortly after posting, I’ll be on another road trip back to Florida. If it is no longer March 21st when you read it, I’ll be somewhere in Orlando, probably spending the rest of my spring break reading or writing. But if it’s after March 29th, I’ll be somewhere in California, keeping track of an assortment of high school seniors.
I get around, if you hadn’t picked up on that yet.
But in all that getting around, I’ve learned some important lessons. Some about myself, some about God, and some about the world we find ourselves. I also learned how to link those things together.
I’m also entering into a new season with Ali, we were actually both going to be able to devote much our time to ministry. It’s what we’ve both wanted and what we both trained for. Ali went to Liberty as well, but never finished. She did get a job at Panera and so happened to be working there when I stopped in during a road trip. If I had gone to Moody like I planned, that road trip wouldn’t have happened. If she hadn’t gone to Liberty, withdrawn but not moved back, she wouldn’t have been in Lynchburg. And we probably would have never started talking and then it would have made getting married a little over two years later a bit difficult to say the least.
And if I hadn’t gotten into that Ph.D program at Southern, gotten a Southwest card thinking I’d be flying to Louisville a lot, we wouldn’t have had the miles saved up when the opportunity to chaperone last year’s senior trip came around. Without that re-entry into a week of student ministry, Ali might not have felt the call re-ignited, and we wouldn’t have started raising support last fall. If God hadn’t moved people to be generous, we wouldn’t have raised enough money for her to quit Panera (after almost 11 years!) back in January.
While there are several different threads in the story I want to tease out, I think this gives it all a good theme. We’re all arriving somewhere, and the journey is part of the process. Rather than trusting the process, we trust the God who providentially guides our steps. Road trips are usually when I have time to reflect on all of this, but are also a pivotal part of the journey. Most of my important decisions have happened on road trips or shortly after. And all my important relationships are nurtured by them.
With that in mind, I want to use my road trips as a means to unpack several parts of the story of how Ali and I got here. Here as in raising support for full-time ministry this fall, but not knowing exactly how we’re gonna pay our bills in June. Here as in trusting God to step into ministry opportunities that weren’t necessarily what we planned or expected when we were younger and more idealistic. But opportunities and paths that make perfect sense once you’ve been down enough dead ends. And that’s the kind of stories I want to tell.