A friend and I are taking a short trip from Arizona to New Orleans. It will be his birthday week. This trip is how he wanted to celebrate and he invited me along. After pondering and considering, I finally said, “Hey, what the heck!” and scheduled the trip on my refrigerator calendar.
Usually, I am an adroit travel planner: make lists for things to pack, double-check what’s in the suitcase, arrange transport to the airport, check where the gate is, etc. This time things are different. I’m traveling with another person. We are taking a train east and flying back west. Hotel reservations have already been made. We have discussed appropriate clothing – whether it will be warmer to wear slacks and jeans and whether a sweater or a jacket might be more suitable.
I am a bit OCD about making sure everything is straight regarding directions, times, etc. However, my friend’s OCD makes me look like an amateur. He has the whole trip planned – when, where, and options – and tomorrow we are running a rehearsal of sorts to find parking one of our cars at the airport so we can find it when we return home! When the time comes, I will probably forget, but still, somehow, right now, it feels comforting to have a visual plan in my head.
This trip planning has reminded me of other journeys I’ve taken, both in the sense of travel and in different ways as well. I needed a schedule when I moved out of my last house, like when to have utilities turned-off, and a list of things to take with me to the new place. When I need to go somewhere I am not familiar with, I like to make sure I study a map or set my Google trip app to plot all the turns, and even then, I prefer to take a rehearsal trip a day or two in advance to get a feel for where I will be going, what side of the road my destination is on, and what landmarks I should look for.
All of this makes me wonder about a much more important trip. I don’t know a single Christian who isn’t expecting to go to heaven. I know I am (or at least I hope and pray I will), but how much time do I actually spend planning the journey? It’s not that I need the Google app, maps, timetables, or lists of things to do that I can cross off one by one. Still, am I simply trusting that it is enough to live my life without making huge mistakes, even if I break a few of the commandments? Will trying to love my neighbor as myself be enough to get me through the Pearly Gates, or will it just land me a spot alongside the golden fence, sadly looking in through the bars at the wonders God prepared for some other elect? I know for sure St. Peter would prefer that I not ask for a “do-over.”
So how do I prepare for the journey? Surely more prayer would be a good idea, and being truly present with a congregation. Adherence to the Ten Commandments and especially the Sermon on the Mount seem like steps in the right direction. Then, of course, there are things like visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for widows and orphans, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, treating all persons alike, regardless of race, creed, color, ethnicity, orientation, or whatever. That’s a pretty long list right there. And all of them are doable in one way or another.
Still, will doing any of these be enough get me into heaven? Maybe, but then, God might expect that if I can do one of these, I can do more than one, or maybe more than ten, or perhaps whatever comes my way that needs doing. I honestly don’t think heaven is limited to one kind of saint; even the saints’ list is full of people of different talents, abilities, proclivities, cultures, and beliefs. And I’m not sure any of them were so focused on getting themselves into heaven that they ignored the jobs God planned for them to do.
So, I will keep planning my trip, but I think that between now and then (as well as the sitting-in-the-window-of-the-train-looking-at-the-scenery), I’ll be giving some thought for the BIG trip I expect to be planning the rest of my life.
Now, where did I put that list?
Image: Statue dedicated to the traveler in Oviedo, Spain. Author: Astur – Own work, 2007. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter She lives in Avondale. Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. She lives with three cats who consider her to be staff, available at all hours to supply whatever they think they want or need at any given time.