"Are we almost there yet?"
Oh, no, I think to myself. We just left home for the yearly Feast of Tabernacles an hour and a half ago, and Amber, my 9-year-old daughter, is already asking if we're almost there.
"No, dear," I reply. "And you other two girls sit still in the backseat and relax. Mom and I want to get there quickly, too. But it takes time, so be patient."
"Now, dear," my wife Arlene pipes in, "don't be too hard on the girls. They are just excited because it's Feast of Tabernacles time."
"I know, dear," I reply.
And then I begin to think to myself that I really should be more patient. I can't blame the kids. After all, the Feast is such a wonderful time.
Our spiritual journey The Feast of Tabernacles is one of the seven annual festivals that God, in the Bible, commands that we keep. It pictures the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on this earth, a wonderful time of abundance — a spiritual and physical utopia. God commands that we observe this time together in an attitude of rejoicing so we can have a foretaste of that wonderful world tomorrow.
These days are so important that God's people save money the entire year long, so that during this time all will have plenty and not have to skimp. If we want a nice meal together as a family, we buy it and rejoice.
Of course, my kids have been keeping the Feast since they were born, so when Feast time comes they get excited. And when the trip to the Feast location begins, they get impatient.
I guess it is somewhat the same with our spiritual journey to God's Kingdom. Sometimes we would like it if Christ's Kingdom would come right away. So, I really can't blame the kids, but...
"Dear," my wife says, her voice interrupting my thoughts, "I've been looking at the map and I think we're lost."
"Lost? You must be kidding. I've been watching for signs all the way, and I couldn't have made a mistake," I confidently pronounce in return.
Nonetheless, I pull off the road and unfurl the map. While doing so I wonder out loud to my wife how the map could have gotten so wrinkled so quickly under her loving care. She is not amused.
"Well?" she asks.
"Well, dear, I think we're lost," I confess.
And we are lost, all right. But not too badly. I only have to turn around and make a left about two miles back where I made a right the first time. Now we are again on the right track.
As I turn the car around and put us on the right course, I can't help but again compare this trip to the Feast with our spiritual journey through life toward God's Kingdom. One of the biggest parts of our journey is to see our sins and mistakes — that is, look at our spiritual road map, the Bible, and see how we have gotten off the right spiritual track — and then admit our mistakes and turn around. Life sometimes seems like one big series of course corrections.
A life of trials But just as my mind is developing that theme, another voice breaks the silence — mine.
"Uh-oh," I groan.
"I know what I mean when I say uh-oh," says my wife, "but what do you mean when you say uh-oh?"
"I mean uh-oh, I think we have a flat tire. And if we do, we are in trouble, because the spare is out of air," I sigh.
Well, the tire is flat, and we are in trouble. For a few minutes I think it will ruin the trip. What to do?
One of the girls (I have three, ranging from 7 to 13 years old) suggests we pray. We do. A few minutes later a tow truck "just happens" by. The driver has an air compressor on the truck. He fills the tire and even mounts it, for almost nothing. Once again we are on the road, the crisis over. And I am musing about how foolish I felt — how quickly I became discouraged by a simple little thing like a flat tire, and how I panicked when I remembered the spare was out of air. I even wondered, Why me? Why would this happen to me and now, of all times?
And yet, looking back, the whole thing was over in a few moments. And even though I couldn't help myself by simply changing the tire (because of my own carelessness in not pumping up the spare), how wonderful it was that God helped us out of the jam when my daughter suggested we pray about it. This flat tire incident is just one of the many trials we face every day in our personal lives in our journey through this world.
But this time my musing is not broken by an interrupting voice. In fact, the silence is irritating. Everyone in the car is sleeping — everyone but me, that is! I am driving.
I, it seems, am doing all the work and everyone else is just along for the ride. I wonder if they appreciate it.
Staying the course But then I think again. The reason they are sleeping is that they have already done their part of the necessary work. My wife packed the clothes. Crystal cleaned the guinea-pig cage and took Domino (the guinea pig) to the neighbors. Amber and Coral swept out the car together. Countless other chores of preparation were done.
They are tired. They have done their part. This, the driving, is my part. And I am happy to do it. For we are a team, a family, together on the road to the Feast just as surely as we are together on the road of life. I, as the husband and father, am steering the course. That's the way it should be. We help each other.
Still, I'm not too unhappy to hear my wife stir a bit and blink herself awake. I yearn for some company.
"Get a good rest?" I inquire.
"Yes," she replies. "Was I asleep long?"
"Pretty long," I say. "Honey," I go on, "would you do me a favor? Get the map and take a look."
"Honey," I moan, are we almost there yet?"