Racing to the End

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Yesterday was a glorious day in Indianapolis. Though still a bit cold, the sun shone brightly across clear skies and it seemed that the entire city found itself caught in the gravitational pull of a day calling us forth to our streets, porches, yards, malls, shops, restaurants, and any of a myriad places to be outside of our own living rooms. I know this because I was one of them, literally finding myself moving about in all of the above throughout the day.

During a drive on one five mile stretch of roadway, I noticed a sporty little Audi weaving in and out of traffic with much urgency. He would have left us far behind except for the fact that the traffic and stop lights conspired to slow his advance, allowing us the opportunity to reconnect with him about seven times before he finally disappeared into the horizon, thanks to three beautifully constructed traffic circles enabling his ultimate escape.

Sally and I laughed a bit about it as we caught up to him at each successive light. Me: “Despite all that horsepower and effort, he’s barely advancing.” Sally (the far wittier of the two us): “Nope, he’s just dancing!” Clever repartee aside, I wondered about the frustration he must have been feeling as he strained against the resistance, longing to turn all those horses loose on this golden day in the pursuit of….what? The mall? The gas station? A date? Perhaps an emergency?

Regardless of his end in mind, our little Mario likely viewed the steady stream of obstacles as an affront, a cruel joke of the universe, determined to impede his progress and prevent his ultimate arrival 2.25 minutes ahead of the slow moving sheep barring his way. Hey, I get it. Give me four wheels and a bit of a roar from the tailpipe, and I’m happy to see if I can carve a few milliseconds off of my best light to light time. So many places to be, so many things to do.

Sitting at another stop light later in our day, we watched as our light turned green and our delayed move into the intersection was rewarded with a near-miss, as a shiny minivan burst into the intersection running the red light at break-neck speed. Turning in the same direction, we found her at the next light not even 1/4 of a mile away, busily checking her phone and passing food back to what I can only imagine were young children – all with wind-blown hair plastered toward the rear of the van by the sheer physics of forward velocity.

Where are all of us racing in such hurries? Growing up, I can remember how I couldn’t wait to learn to ride a bike. Then, how great it would be when I got to go to school with the big kids. Later, I looked forward to changing schools, that will be better right? Then I felt it would be so cool to be in high school. When I finally get to drive, the world will be mine! Once I graduate from college, I can finally start my life. Marriage will finally mark my arrival as a real adult, right? I can’t wait to be a dad!

At 30, I’ll finally be a legitimate professional. With that bump in salary, we will finally live how we want. That bigger house will really show that we’ve arrived. If I only had that cool Audi, I could really tear through this traffic! Someday I’ll own my own business. When will we finally be done with tuition? Once the kids are out, we can finally _______. If we could just land that deal, then we’re set. We’re almost there, another year and we’ll have enough to retire. I sure wish the kids were closer. When will I see my grandchildren? Want to spend the morning picking up seashells along the beach? What do we do tomorrow?

More. Onward. Faster. Faster. Faster. Every obstacle, frustrating. Every delay, maddening. Every setback, disheartening. Every failure, crushing. When will we finally get there?

One day, we realize: we were driving that zippy little Audi. The sheep in the road were those we needed to love. Those lights were trying to slow us down enough to see what was happening along the way, and avoid running others over. The obstacles in the road prepared us for the next ones we would face. The signs warned us of the dangers and reminded us of where we were going. The road kept us from hitting the ditches as it directed us forward. Until, we finally reached its end.

“For the present is the point at which time touches eternity,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. We miss the real gifts of now when we race to the desires we hope to grasp down the road.

And for my friend in the shiny Audi, Billy Joel says it better than I ever could:

Slow down, you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart, well, tell me
Why are you still so afraid? Mm
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out
You’ve got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day

Today is a glorious day. May the road rise to meet you…where you are…in this moment.

  • John Harrison

    Very well said. Phil. Michelle and I have had the same experience and conversation numerous times. For those of us who are so fortunate, we need to appreciate today.

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