Are you going places?
Summer plans often include vacations away from home. Whether you board a plane for Europe, a train for Chicago, or a minivan for grandma’s house, taking a trip gets you out of your comfort zone.
Turns out that if you are going places, you may end up going places. Travel not only takes you places, it stretches you in ways that are good for you.
The Bible tells of one journey after another that ends up being soul travel. God called Abram to leave his home in Mesopotamia to go to a land God would show him. So Abram went. That’s all we hear about his decision to leave everything and go. The payoff of that answered call to travel was that he became the father of multitudes and the forebear of the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Jesus forsook a quiet life among kin in Galilee for a showdown with demonic powers that needed defeating. He knew in his bones he had to travel to Jerusalem. It wasn’t vacation; it was vocation. His sacrificial journey taught his followers not to settle. Each of us, too, has to risk security for salvation.
St. Paul’s missionary journeys across the Mediterranean broke the church out of its provincialism. Christianity thus began 2,000-plus years of adaptation to culture. Faith truly is at home in the world only when it refuses to make itself at home in any part of the world.
Homer’s “Odyssey,” Virgil’s adaptation of it called “The Aeneid,” and Dante’s spiritualized rendering of the same theme in “The Divine Comedy” all employ this motif of life as a journey. Great things are learned on the move
The peril of meeting up with people who live differently from you, who look and dress and eat differently from your folk, who think and work and play differently from the clan you were reared in, is more promising than the opposite peril of staying put. Never venturing far from home, you breed fear of outsiders, reinforce walls of prejudice, and pass on only local knowledge. When you encounter a wider world, you find that kindness takes you far, that hospitality to strangers is in your self-interest, and that God is bigger than your tribe.
Travel teaches flexibility. It tests ingenuity. It expands the soul.
Of course, you can travel like you never left home: insulating yourself from the foreigners you visit by staying inside the resort the whole time and never interacting with the people. You can eat at McDonald’s almost anywhere and miss the flavors of foods you would never taste otherwise. You can carry the ugly American brand with you instead of showing off our national spirit of discovery. But what would be the point of leaving home if you don’t really leave home at home?
In the last of his “Four Quartets” called “Little Gidding,” the poet T. S. Eliot hints that it is the God who made us who beckons us to embark on this spiritual journey. “With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling/ We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.”
You have to leave home in order to know it.