A long commute to and from work is actually not very energy efficient, especially for those of us who endeavor to live more sustainable lifestyles. The choice to develop a sustainable farmstead in the solitude of the country while working thirty miles away in the city has its trade-offs. I grimace at the consumption of even our small all-wheel-drive car every time I’m at the gas pump. Yet, I believe the work we are doing in building a church that serves the poor and cares for creation has deep and lasting value for humanity. I grieve each time I board a plane to go convince people that the Bible mandates God’s people to care for the earth. I know that the flight in itself is the antithesis of the message I deliver. Not every choice I make is right, but my heart is to do some good with the life I’ve been given. I want to value the gift of life itself never harboring feelings of entitlement or taking my life for granted. I want to live with a heart of thanksgiving even when things don’t go the way I think they should.
As for my commute, I value the beauty and quietness it provides every day. For me it’s a time to reflect and plan. In the morning it prepares me for the day I am about to face and in the evening it provides opportunity to debrief the events and encounters of the day I’ve just experienced, bringing closure and proper perspective.
My drive home takes me over a high pass which then descends through a small town in the basin of a picturesque river valley bordered with distant timbered ridges. It winds further down six miles of the river, across an ancient metal bridge and up an unpaved narrow road which ascends a long grade to the higher rolling hills that hold the butte where we live.
Every day I see a myriad of wildlife including birds of prey like hawks, falcons, owls and eagles. I see an occasional elk herd and many deer, both mule and whitetail. I see wild turkeys, badgers, foxes, coyotes and skunks illusively dodging into the brush and rocks at the road’s edge. My commute is clearly a privilege not a task; even on those late stormy winter nights after meetings that go too long – nights when the snow blows horizontally across icy roads forming hazardous sculptured drifts. Living in the country somehow always seems to provide adventure that interrupts the mundane schedules and patterns of what might be considered a more normal life. Not that my homeward journeys have always been without calamity and trials. More than once I’ve experienced blown out tires on lonely stretches of road. I’ve collided with deer and incurred hundreds of dollars in damage to my car. I’ve rolled my truck down a 30 foot embankment, landing upside down after hitting black ice on a cold, December night. I’ve been delayed by herds of cattle and bands of sheep being driven by cowboys and herders, often inconveniencing me and delaying my arrival to important meetings and appointments.
All that being said, my commute is a picture of life itself. It is a journey full of decisions, conflict and trade-offs, not always matching the purity of my ideology. It carries me towards a destination of peace if I stay focused and keep to the road before me. It is a journey often full of obstacles, delays and sometimes even detours – but using each to teach patience, tenacity and stick-to-itiveness. It is a journey not without pain and trauma, but one that exposes the greatness and majesty of God each day if I look for it. It is a journey that requires contemplation and deep thought, putting everything in proper perspective. And, in the end it provides much meaning and purpose. For those who read the directions, follow the signs and choose the right road it may be a long journey, but a journey that will surely take us home.