Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Leaving Traces on the Long Road Ahead - My Sabbath Week

My friend Micah had never been out West. His family traveled often when he was a kid, but Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park never made it on their itinerary. When Micah agreed to drive across the country to meet Eugene Peterson with me, he hoped to see these points of interest on the Long Road Ahead.

We had sights to see. We had selfies to take.

The trip commenced after our Sunday morning service ended. Our wives and children were the last to clear out of the church building. We exchanged hugs, kisses, and farewell prayers. Then we rode.

The line from Leesburg, Indiana to Mt. Rushmore comprises nearly sixteen hours of driving. We stopped overnight in the town of Mitchell, South Dakota, made famous by the notorious Thunderbird Inn. It was the only hotel in the area shouting Vacancy in neon lights. There was a reason. The beds were concave, likely hollowed out by bugs. The air reeked of disinfectant, suppressing the trace of urine coming from the carpet.

The next day, Micah and I arrived at Mt. Rushmore close to lunch time. We posed for a few shots, trying to align our faces with George and Company. Micah's image became an instant success on Facebook. He made it his new profile picture, soliciting likes and comments from his virtual friends and biological family.
Micah Nightingale

My picture featured a Grace in the Burg tee-shirt: I wanted to leave traces of my church at a second major landmark in less than sixty days. In July I attended the FellowShift Conference in Washington D.C. and stood in front of the White House for a candid moment. Having my church represented at the White House inspired me to take my church to other notable places. (In fact, I challenged people from our body to take pictures wearing their Grace in the Burg shirts all across America. I think I recently saw an image from a congregant at Wal-Mart in Warsaw (IN), which is not exactly what I had in mind.)

After we finished capturing the moment, Micah and I sat on a bench and made lunch.  We ate turkey sandwiches beneath the watchful eyes of dead presidents and constant clicks of cell phone cameras.
And I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the human impulse to freeze time. We enlarge our history in stone monuments. We compress our past in digital photographs. We all long to leave a trace.

Throughout the remainder of the Long Road Ahead, Micah and I stuffed our phones with video footage and still images. We recorded bison ambling through Yellowstone, waterfalls rushing to the river below, high mountains peaking through stratus clouds, campfires blazing at twilight, and friends enjoying God's expansive creation, even if it made their joints ache and muscles sore.

There was only one part of the trip I did not exploit with my camera. There is no photographic trace of my conversation with Eugene Peterson. Some moments should not be interrupted for a pose.

Part Two of Five in My Sabbath Week

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