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Some of us remember the days before interstate highways and massive traffic slowdowns when a leisurely drive to a relative’s house was as much about scenery as it was about getting places. Who cared if the highway weaved around curves and some hills were steeper than others? It was fun to see fields with cattle and sheep, and sometimes even a white hillside where turkeys and chickens roamed freely behind a fence.
Those were days when you could load up the car with expectation of the trip of a lifetime. Regardless of where you were starting from, the adventure would undoubtedly lead to parts of the country that you had only seen in books and magazines. From the east, west, north, or south, from the central plains, wherever it was you called home, there was a lot to be seen beyond your immediate area.
You’d just map out your itinerary to include places that you always wanted to see and those that any traveling partners would enjoy. Drive through the cornfields of Iowa or the wheat of the Dakotas. Swing by that “new” arch structure called the Gateway to the West in St. Louis.
You can drive along the beaches of either coast, or into the mountains that soar into the sky. Enjoy the forests of redwoods or walk among the petrified trees of long ago. Sit on the banks of the Mississippi and you can almost see Tom Sawyer floating by on a raft. Climb the steps in Mesa Verde National Park and you sense the presence of the cliff dwellers who built their homes in the Colorado mountainside. On another mountainside in South Dakota, you can marvel at the danger and skill it took to carve the faces of four American presidents.
Using a little imagination, you can see huge herds of buffalo on the Great Plains. And it takes no imagination, just wonderment, to appreciate the color and beauty of the Grand Canyon.
All those places are still there, and you can still see them and enjoy them, but how we travel has changed. If you choose to travel any great distance by car, you’ll probably be on interstate highways. And unless you can count seeing the World’s Largest Buffalo along I-94 in Jamestown, North Dakota, or other tall, man-made structures, you don’t see a lot. To get to those gems of scenery, you have to take a side trip. The old highway system went this way and that, connecting one small place to another, regardless of the hills that had to be climbed or the curves that had to be maneuvered. Interstate highways try to be the shortest distance between two points. They are straighter, less hilly, and, if necessary to accomplish their goal, will go right through the side of a mountain or under a water source.
But the highways are not totally to blame. People have changed as well. The simple yet amazing wonders that surround us become hidden from our view by all of our modern necessities that we carry with us. We feel like we’re interrupting something if we try to point out some beautiful scenic spot when the kids are listening to their CDs and the adults are watching a movie. Headphones in place, eyes closed, it’s like: “Don’t bother me with stuff outside. Just tell me how long before we get there.”
We have become so disoriented that we confuse the distractions in our lives with the realities. What we might perceive as distractions are actually the realities. To a young person riding in a car, the beautiful scenery is a distraction to concentrating on the music. To a caring and concerned onlooker, the music is the distraction to the world.
Has our focus in life become “just getting there” instead of living it as we go along? Are we able to enjoy the scenery along the way or do we shut it out because we don’t have the time to deal with it? Do we live only in the flesh, or do we allow God’s Spirit to dwell in us?
PRAYER: You have created a beautiful and wonderful world, but we are too busy to appreciate it, Lord. Slow us down! Open our eyes to You greatness and glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.
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