I’m grateful to introduce you to the author of today’s guest post. Jerel Law is a pastor, author, and father of three. He began writing stories as a way to help his children’s faith come alive. My son discovered and devoured Law’s Son of Angels series this summer, and I was promptly instructed to add it to the list of Books for Boys. Jerel’s love of redemptive story, imagination, and family make him a kindred spirit with the Story Warren family. Please join me in giving Jerel a warm welcome –Julie Silander
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My family just returned from a summer road trip. 1800 miles, at least ten stops at gas stations to fill up with fuel for the car and/or caffeine for the driver and/or a sugar-filled snacks for the kids because, hey, we’re on vacation, eight new state lines crossed, three Hampton Inn “free” breakfasts, dozens of songs sung, and one deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, eaten.
We traveled from Charlotte to Wisconsin to a family camp on Lake Geneva, about an hour northwest of the Windy City. I confessed to the camp registrar, half-embarrassed, that we’d only heard of the camp through a Twitter connection, were just looking for a road trip, the dates worked well for us, and we were up for an adventure. I knew there would be a summer-camp experience for my three kids, a music festival environment with Christian artists filling a lakeside stage at night, and the possibilities of a spiritual retreat. I also had the sense that God might, in fact, want to meet us there too. But otherwise, I didn’t know much else.
It’s possible to measure these journeys in miles, or gas stations stops, or fast food meals, or in lots of other mundane ways. My hope, though, was that God would allow us to measure our trip by something further below the surface. I didn’t even know what. But pointing my car north on I-77, packed to the gills with three kids and about a thousand other things, felt like an act of faith. That God would take the promise of the road in front of us, and bring us to somewhere somehow more alive.
Have you ever spent four days somewhere and it felt like a month? (And this, a good thing?) Thursday began, Sunday came, but it felt like time had barely moved. There were magical evening concerts in front of a sun-stroked lake; watching my kids run, laugh, and play with new friends they’d made so easily, from all over; conversations with musicians, artists, and regular folks like me, all striving for the same God; raucous campfires complete with s’mores (most of the raucous-ness thanks to my own 13, 11, and 8 year olds); time to breathe, and just be.
I was walking to our final breakfast at the camp dining hall on Sunday morning, when I saw Ellis on the path too, a six-year old boy my kids had gotten to know. “Do you wish you could stay longer?” I asked him, as we walked together. He looked back up at me with the honest, earnest eyes of an unspoiled heart. “I wish we could live here,” he replied. His eyes told me he meant it. I nodded along with him.
I thought about this often on the way home, as we connected from interstate to interstate, every mile pulling us further away from the experience we had, both physically and in other ways. About how we were making for home, but how our hearts had been captured, captivated in this place for a few days, and how some big part of us was still swimming in the lake, laughing along the shore, and singing by a campfire.
And how riding along this highway, we were somehow in-between.
We live on the interstate. Or I suppose I could say, we live inter-state. We had brushed up against something magical for a few days, but before we could even realize it for what it was, we were a hundred miles down the road. A different place, or had we been in a different dimension altogether?
We carried with us the sobering realization that we had to go, we couldn’t stay here, our time was up. But also, like our little friend Ellis, the deep sense that “I wish we could live here.”
Somewhere on the interstate, these words from 1 Corinthians drifted into view.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Christ-follower, friend, spiritual brother and sister, we live inter-state. Somewhere in-between this world and the world to come. We know this place is not our home, and yet, we have not arrived at the end of our journey. Truthfully, there are times when that realization is more than we can bear. There is a certain homelessness involved when you live on the interstate. It can be lonely out on the open road.
Maybe the greatest gift I can offer as a parent is to give my kids glimpses of what is to come. To help them know they are made not just for something else, but for somewhere else. I could tell them. But I can also show them, like a tour guide of life, who is just a step or two ahead myself. I can show them the mirror, the reflection, brief experiences of love and grace and community and beauty and wholeness. Knowing all the while that there is a risk. We will have to leave too soon, the view we see will reveal in all of us the gaping hole inside, and we will have to swallow hard and pull the car away once again.
But they will remember. They will know that they long for something. That this world will not, cannot, hold them forever. That we were made for somewhere else, and until we arrive there, we will live in-between states, having left this old world behind as we walk forward hand-in-hand with Jesus, catching reflections of the new one along the journey, knowing in our hearts that one day we won’t just vacation there.
It will be our home.