Road trip! There was a time when those two words had a sense of great excitement for me. I guess they still do under a certain set of circumstances. But those circumstances do not include a trip that you make because you have to make, as opposed to one you want to make. Nor if you choose to make it as quickly as possible, even if it means traveling every day. Nor if it occurs in the dead of winter and in the midst of the dreaded snow and wintry mix. Nor if you encounter subzero temperatures along the way.
It being the season of Epiphany, however, I’ve been trying to find some of those “Aha!” moments that are what Epiphany is supposed to be about. And I found them. In spite of all the circumstances above, I got to spend it all in the company of my granddaughter. I enjoyed that very much. Then I wished I could do the same thing with each of my grandchildren. I seldom get to spend one-on-one time with them, and never for almost a whole week. But not in winter and not because we had to. Maybe when we had more time. One of my grandsons even posted on Facebook this week that he missed the day-long trips in the car listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary. Old Stewball was a race horse …. Coincidence? I think not!
We already had a very tight and demanding schedule, but then we were thrown a wicked curve that required an additional two-day stay and two more travel days. But we had no choice, so we simply decided we’d have to make the best of it. As it turned out, the delay will save us a repeat of the road trip in about five weeks and would delay our return home by two days. Those two days gave the sun and the plows time to clear the roads of the 12+ inches of snow that fell on the day we originally would have been arriving home. I’m not suggesting that God delayed things in order to provide us with those two benefits. I don’t believe that God works like that. But I do believe that life is a wonderfully complex journey that includes the interaction between choices we and others make and circumstances over which we have no control. Very little in life does not have a whole continuum of pluses and minuses. We get to pick the places in which we search for our “Aha!” moments.
I had a major “Aha!” moment all by myself. I went to get the car to bring it around and pick up my granddaughter at the entrance to the building. The temperature was approaching Absolute Zero. Ok. Ok. But it was cold. And that wintry stuff was everywhere. As I walked to the car, I stepped on a patch of clear ice. My feet flew up in front of me as the rest of me started over backwards. For a brief moment I found myself suspended parallel to and about three feet above the cold, hard, ice-packed parking lot. Clearly a metaphor for life itself. In that moment, I actually had the thought, “This is not going to end well.” It didn’t take long for gravity to bring me down. After all, I offer a pretty good target for gravity. My landing was not gentle, and it knocked the breath out of me. As I lay there trying to catch my breath, I was afraid to try and get up. I was afraid that my hip, which had taken the brunt of my hard landing, would be broken. I took my time, moving slowly, and found that everything was functioning well. At least as well as anything functions in my sixty-nine-year-old body. I was a little sore, but as functional as I had been before the crash landing. Just wait until tomorrow, I thought. I’ll hurt in places I didn’t now I had places. I was wrong. A couple of additional tender spots the next morning, but nothing like I was worried about. Sometimes things turn out as bad as you expect. Or worse. But sometimes, like this time, your worst fears are not realized. Be grateful. I was, and I am.
The truth is any journey, including life, will have its good moments and its bad ones. Falls will come, but most of them could be worse. Storms are always around and can be dangerous, but virtually any storm could be worse than it was where you were. Circumstances we cannot control will impact our journey in both positive and negative ways. The road trip we call life is full of all kinds of experiences, any of which – whether positive or negative – can be one of those “Aha!” moments. But you’ve got to be listening and expectant in order to hear. I am grateful. For life. For all of its complexities. For epiphanies. For those along on the journey. Grateful. Maybe, in light of everything going on, that is the most significant epiphany of all.