I remember when I was ten asking my father how old he was, and he told me he was three times as old as I was. He went on to say that in ten more years he would be just twice as old as me and that, one day, I would catch up to him! Doubtful as his math seemed then, I began over time to wonder if there was not some truth to it, I now in my fifth decade and he in his seventh. The longer he lives, the older I get. (Happy birthday, Dad!)
My father is retired now from the long-distance trucking that occupied him when I was a kid. I remember the excitement of him being “on the road” when we were little. Later, he would meet us at some truck stop or other around the country. Even after we moved to New York and he still lived in Mississippi he’d call now and then to let us know when he was at the truck stop in Belvidere and see if we wanted to bring the boys up for breakfast and, most exciting of all, a ride in the cab.
Maybe it’s from my father that I developed a sense of driving as not escape but something more like meditation. Or better, a means of contemplation. A way to be with my thoughts and in communion with the world, crossing its surface while it turns slow beneath.
In her entry “Upon the Floods,” in Poets on the Psalms, Diane Glancy reflects on crossing 4,799 miles of open ground in the western U.S. “in a week and a half” to teach and give readings. “I listened to Psalms as I drove” she writes. “I wanted strength for the unknown journey ahead.” “What I listened for in Psalms was mostly the landscapes,” she notes: “The outgoings of the morning and the evening, the rain, hills, rivers and valleys, the settled furrows, the pastures of the wilderness clothed with flocks and crops (from Psalm 65).”
“The earth was removed as I drove” she continues, leaving out of Bismarck, North Dakota on her own that first night. “I was alone under the sky. I was alone on the road though mountains shook with rumbling; though the earth tumbled into dark, I kept driving. My refuge is in the Lord.”
Onward to Missoula she went, leaving from there before dawn, and then to Portland to teach yet more, continuing on until “all of Psalms seems to be a divided highway. Cries of agonies and desperate pleas for help mixed with continuous, profound praise of the Lord’s faithfulness.” “It seemed, in the end,” she found, “that the landscape David wrote about was a landscape of faith. A migration across the circumstances he met.”
“I could enter the Psalms as I traveled,” she writes. “I could drive the road like a trucker. I could praise God before his creation. It seemed to me this is a day in which common man has access to God, and so does common woman. Faith has broken down the partition. I can enter a close relationship to God like David. I can do so because of Christ.”
That’s the closest approximation I’ve read of the 6:00 a.m. feeling engendered on my father’s calling out Adios (“to God”) from the lane beside us, our youngest in arms as our oldest pumps his elbow hard to “Grampa! blow your horn,” Dad waving down to us from his rig to pass him by, as I pull back instead to make our exit; not ready to pass him, even if he wants me to. In God’s time I may yet pull alongside. For now though, it’s enough to share the way.
To let the Psalms of David wash over us as we gather; to let the Psalms that washed over Jesus open us to worship: That’s what we have before us now, as we gather again to discover what God has done. The road laid open before us of laughter and love, heartache and tears, welcome and leaving and waving us on. Christ to point the way to God; ours to join, the crossing home.
–Pastor Bill Jones, Sept. 2009