I don’t know if you’ve ever been blessed to drive down a back highway in east Texas right before evening during the season we humorously call fall. It’s late October and by the grace of God it’s a bit cooler today; the type of weather that makes you roll down the windows, take the top down on the convertible or pull out the old motorcycle. The sky is as blue as ever, crisp and steady with clouds floating around and hanging out, adding depth to the endlessness of the atmosphere.
The view is enough to hold your attention, the rolling hills and the pine trees, the clean cut lawns, aged cemeteries and overgrown fields. Before long your face catches a smirk and an eye roll at the twelve cars parked in the scattered front lawns, the grass slowly creeping up around. Your eyes strain to match the length of the fences that go by; barbed-wire fences, rusted fences, whitewashed wood and all natural. They playfully run on beside you, matching the miles you drive. The steadfast Historical Markers stand proud and true in their brown sign, offering a wave as they invite you to explore their knowledge of the past. The wave matches that of the church signs, welcoming you in on behalf of their congregation; Baptist, Methodist, Baptist, Church of Christ, Baptist, Baptist, Baptist…
Other places may have started to change, maybe even added some white to the palette but here, everything is still pretty green. Everything that is until the sun begins to get tired. And when it starts to get darker, when the sun hits the tops of those trees, they aren’t green anymore; they burst forth with color almost as bright as the sun. They change into these shades of reds and oranges; desperately trying to reflect the glory of the light above.
That will all hold your attention, but it isn’t the most beautiful part of the trip because this highway doesn’t just go from one big city to one big city, with only fast food chains and travel stops to watch you fly by. It stops and weaves in between the lives of the people who are here, it goes through every small town allowing you to see the true beauty of what a simple drive can do. You see the old man working under his lawnmower, knelt down in the grass. You see the two friends grey in the hair, faded overalls pulled on and sitting on the bed of a truck, shooting the breeze on a Friday. You see the cars already filling in the parking lot at the stadium, the lights warming up to set the stage. You pass the groups of friends walking down the street or the mom loaded up and rocking the mini-van. When the speed limit slows you down, you begin to see what it’s about.
It’s about the people, because for one second when you drive through, you get to be a part of their life, for one moment we share the same world.
For one moment we are connected.
I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten the chance to sit on a back porch at night with a box of pizza and a bottle of wine. To share in conversation, true good and heart-warming conversation. I don’t know if you’ve sat overlooking a lake on a Saturday afternoon, with a view you’re pretty positive Jesus painted just for you. The sun on the water, the slight breeze tempting the leaves to go ahead and take that skydive free-fall plunge. I don’t know if you’ve ever allowed yourself to take an intentional breath. I mean, a very intentional deep and slow breath.
Because the more I sat around, the more I took the time to deliberately enjoy this incredibly beautiful world around me, the more I began to realize that this life was not created to be a drive-thru. We weren’t made to live in the fast lane, racing ahead with blinders on. Our life is made for those moments of connection; the present instant when we share and love with the humans, the people, the hearts and lives of those around us.
So find somewhere quiet, drive down a back-road, take a deep breath, drink some sweet tea and eat something fried. Feel free to even add some vegetables on the side for the health of your conscience. But chew slowly and refuse to gulp it down. Laugh whole-heartedly, engage every sense, talk a bit slower and truly relish every moment.
“When it was all over, all I could think about was how this entire notion of oneself, what we are, is just this logical structure, a place to momentarily house all the abstractions. It was a time to become conscious, to give form and coherence to the mystery, and I had been a part of that. It was a gift. Life was raging all around me and every moment was magical. I loved all the people, dealing with all the contradictory impulses – that’s what I loved the most, connecting with people. Looking back, that’s all that really mattered.” Waking Life