We were having lots of fun in New England…doing museums, little small-town festivals, eating seafood and, perhaps best of all, getting up late. We made reservations for the first three nights of our stay; first in the Boston area and then in Yarmouth on Cape Cod. The views we saw were more breathtaking than we could have imagined. But it IS possible to PLAN a spirit of abandon and that’s what we’d done in regard to reservations for the rest of our trip. We were going to just forget about clocks and schedules and firm destinations (after all, we do all of that when we’re home). This was going to be an adventure!
And so we were doing all of our favorite things: wandering down countryside roads in Northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, scouting out quaint little antiques stores, snacking at 200-year-old country stores and taking pictures of covered bridges. We weren’t worried about being lost, because ”lost” in New England was more of a target destination for us than a routing mishap.
…Until we decided to do a few miles on an interstate to get a bit further inland and a little further north. (“Leaves should be peak if we could get about 100 miles further north.”) Well, that few miles on the interstate took hours. Slammed. It slowly began to dawn on us that our total abandon had better turn into a quick plan for housing that very night. Glenn remarked that the lights on the freeway resembled a giant and unending Christmas village. It registered with us, really for the first time, that we had, quite without intent, chosen the last holiday weekend of the northern vacation season and peak week for leaves and that half the southern population had chosen that weekend as well. Upon investigation—looking around, telephoning and web searching—we found that the coast had virtually no hotel rooms left. If we found a room, it was going to be a real feat. We started considering options like “reconnecting with dear friends who’d moved up north” or sleeping sitting upright in that packed Kia Soul that we’d rented. Since watching that sunset and deciding that the state of Maine was going to be suddenly off the itinerary for us, I’ve garnered a new appreciation for a few things:
- I’ve thought about Mary and Joseph, who heard “no room at the inn” all those centuries ago. I was vacationing. They were not taking a trip of leisure. I was looking for a comfortable place to sleep. Even my car would have likely been more comfortable than the barn that finally lodged them. I was looking for a place to rest; not a place to finish labor without anethesia and give birth. Little life emergencies often make me think about the Lord and how very much he sacrificed for me on a daily basis—even before the cross—beginning with the feeding trough in the barn. I wanted a clean place to wash up and rest and begin a new day of admiring the beauty that He created. He, the Creator, saw his first sunrise as the Son of Man from a filthy stable where all of the blood and the smells that our sterile nurses wash away in the moments after birth likely lingered on. I worried about where we would pillow our heads that night. Mary must have been a little anxious about where she’d be and whether Joseph would be a good makeshift midwife for the Son of God.
- I’m a bit ashamed of what I believe my “needs” to be. That’s probably enough said about that. But it was surprising how thankful I could be for a room that I would have never “picked out”. We really throw around that word “need” in our very rich society. It was from that room that I read about my sister Roberta Edwards’ tragic death as she carried on the work that was her every day’s agenda for the orphans in Haiti. I need to feel shame sometimes.
- I’ve also thought about the “just and the unjust” a good bit. All of those people from all walks of life were traveling by the thousands to see the splendor of the changing leaves in New England. Our personal “oohs” and “aahs” were often punctuated by comments about our God’s majesty, supreme creativity and grace to us. But, sadly, many, if not most of the leaf lookers, weren’t giving much thought to God at all. We heard them taking His name in vain repeatedly, saw them consuming alcohol and, in general, behaving like the world behaves. Certainly, when we went to praise Him with the churches in Lawrenceville, Masssachusetts on Wednesday night, in Providence, Rhode Island on Sunday morning and in Manchester, Vermont, on Sunday night, those places of worship were not experiencing the same crowd congestion as were the foliage and forest attractions. Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).Perhaps we get to inherit the creation in a much more precious way than those who are not meekly walking with Him. Perhaps just knowing that it is our Father—the one who is loving and caring for us, the one who is hearing and answering our prayers—He is the One who made this display on the East coast of America in 2015. He is the One who does it every year. He is the one who makes every display of nature—every sunrise, every shooting star, that amazing expanse of surging water that we saw, the volcanic activity, the marvels of deoxyribonucleic acid and every other marvel in the human body—He is the ONE! It is His cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and His sun that rises on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And yet he cares for ME, even keeping a tally of how many hairs are on my head (Matthew 10:30). I would get to see the leaves even if I was unjust. But I am glad I am among the justified, so that through His grace I can see the One who made them!
- It’s important to have a reservation. It was a minor hitch when we failed to have a room in New Hampshire or Vermont. But, if we fail to have a reservation in the final destination of humankind, it will be the ultimate tragedy. A spirit of abandon about that destination is the worst tactical error one can make.
The end of the story is that we did find rooms for the rest of our stay. They were not exactly the ones we would have chosen and they were not in the precise location that we’d have planned. They certainly were not at the price we would have expected to pay for them. But, suddenly, we were very grateful to God for a place to lay our heads. We told Him so. I’m planning to keep the reservation I have made in the place of eternal sightseeing…the place where I will at once never tire of the beauty and yet still find a rest (I Peter 1:4). Have you made your reservation there?