I am forever trying to get people to play hooky and go road-tripping with me. It is astounding to me how many of you have jobs and responsibilities that you are hesitant, dare I say loathe, to walk away from on a random Wednesday morning for no other reason than because I texted you out of the blue mentioning that I hear Amsterdam has great rates on houseboat rentals this time of year. Ok, that was a bad (though historically accurate) example… that would require more than a beater vehicle. But I am generally quite amenable to being offered alternatives. You say Amsterdam seems like a bit of a stretch, so how about an hour spent in Starbucks instead and I tend to go along with it with minimal griping (except in June. I cannot stand Starbucks in June and as they are increasingly trying to imbue their coffee shops with an “all June, all the time” vibe, I feel about hopping into a Starbucks the way y’all appear to feel about hopping across the pond to Amsterdam. Impasse).
And while yes, I could throw caution to the wind all by me onesies and drive to exotic lands with no one beside me and nothing but a gigantic bag of watermelon sour patch kids and an old van to keep me company, half the fun of a roadtrip (or a trip of any kind) is the companion you have with you. The most disastrous travels weasel their way into the storage locker of your happy memories if you delight in your companion.
And there are, of course, different types of companions. There are those who always insist on paying at the restaurants (incidentally, if you are one of those, have you ever wanted to go to Amsterdam?), the ones who enable your shopping habits, the ones who have a coronary upon witnessing your shopping habits (you know who you are), the ones who find it reasonable to live off of triscuits, smoked salmon and pepperjack cheese for multiple days, the ones who will spend hours in a hotel room with you watching Law and Order reruns and only suggesting we pause to pay the pizza delivery guy, the ones who have an eye for scenery, the ones who have a radar for hole in the wall bars that specialize in craft cocktails.
Unfortunately, all these companions are also stuck with me, but you’ll have to go read their blogs to find out what kind of companion I am.
Recently, someone I hold in high regard came face to face with his inability to effectively encourage me in the journey God has called me to. This may come as a shock to you, but my life can be hard to grapple with if you are standing right next to it. Turns out, it’s not a big fat slice of cheesecake standing in it either, but I get the impression that watching it can cause significant internal squirming. He had been attempting to encourage my endurance by beginning with a hypothetical:
Suppose you knew that you were going to die at 6 PM tonight…
Now, the point was that if we knew that, we could last til then, push through til then, and so on. However, he was ungraciously cut short by my hollering, “FINALLY!!” which, I gather, was not how the exercise was supposed to go. Yes, I apologized.
But in the end, his words spoken later have stuck with me. He encouraged me that while he (and possibly no one in my life) actually has a doggone useful thing to say, God may be providing me with companions who could comfort me, even in my isolation. He urged me on to embrace companion authors. He is right
Now, I have always enjoyed reading, but my hunger for words has grown more voracious as I have aged (insert all fitting comments here about stretch marks leading to mind stretching and how multiple necks probably just gives more places for the smartification to go), and I realized recently that the authors I seek out regularly have become more than just reading. They have become my companions. In loneliness, they keep me company. They prove that my mind, while perhaps unusual, is not unheard of, for they have thought my own thoughts first, and better. They are further down the road than I am, and yet in their writings, it is as if they have pulled off onto the shoulder and are extending a hand to help me on my way.
If life is a road trip, these writers have packed all the best snacks for me.
G.K. Chesterton proves to me that I am neither too obnoxious nor too alone in cramming many ideas into a short space and finding oneself entertaining can actually serve another person at times. Charles Spurgeon has been my most longstanding and stalwart companion over the years; he is safe to suffer with, for he suffered long as well. And new to my pilgrimage (and for shame that I did not know to invite him along sooner) is Richard Sibbes, the Puritan preacher who Spurgeon said “Never wastes the student’s time; he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.” There is nothing I would love more dearly to have spoken of me, so perhaps now I can begin my apprenticeship under the “heavenly doctor.”
And I apologize. I have no idea how to not make these little quote thingies not light up blue.
“Whatsoever is good for God’s children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to heaven; therefore, if poverty be good, they shall have it; if disgrace be good, they shall have it; if crosses be good, they shall have them; if misery be good, they shall have it; for all is ours, to serve for our greatest good.“
And that is merely a sampling of the food for my journey that is currently sloshing about my soul. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; it is good company when the road is lonely, and faithfully points you to the Captain who has designed the road, specifically for you, and refuses to depart from your side as you make your way to glory. There is no narrow way that His mercy does not widen, no rocky path that He does not stabilize your foot to tread upon. To paraphrase another companion of mine, Samuel Rutherford, I may be hanging on by a thread, but that thread is in a web of Jesus’ spinning. So spin on.