Reflections - Life travels

Eleanor Deckert

I am on the road for three weeks. As I zip along in my sporty car, I am aware of all the comforts and safety features at my fingertips. Warmer, cooler, music, news, tasty food, hot or cool drinks, weather reports, traffic advisory, GPS, BCAA, cell phone... the list goes on and on. I have a first aid kit, reflective vest, candle, flashlight, shovel, blanket - oh, and a suitcase!

I know where I am going and how to get there. Friends and family are glad to welcome me. I have a cozy place to sleep tonight. I can phone ahead so my hostess doesn't wait. I can phone home so my hubby doesn't worry. Many of these conveniences were unavailable a few decades ago. As my mind travels back in time, I realize how different travel was before machinery replaced muscle power: horses, camels, oxen, mules, donkeys, and of course, walking.

Pondering, plodding, I ask myself, “Who, when, why… how did people travel in Bible stories?”

Let's start at the beginning: Adam and Eve had to travel. They were kicked out of the Garden. Their son, Cain, was sent wandering. Then there's Abraham. He left his homeland in hopes of reaching the Promised Land.

Moses and thousands of tribal families wandered in the wilderness. David lived in the hills, on the move in between battles. Mary and Joseph left home to go to Bethlehem, then ran for their lives when soldiers searched for baby boys. Then there's Jesus. Walking. Walking. Walking. And later, the apostles spread out, some say as far as India and the British isles, sharing the Good News.

Yes, travel is definitely a theme running throughout Scripture. I wonder why? Does the Almighty have duties as a Tour Guide or Travel Agent?

Of course, maps show the specific locations of the towns, rivers, mountains, and plains that are described in these and many other Bible stories. It is important to have at least a general idea of the lay of the land where these episodes took place. Sometimes more than one significant turning point happens at the same location. 

One example I recently became aware of is this: In some paintings of the crucifixion, there is a skull at the foot of the Cross. The study notes in the book I was looking through said there is a tradition that young David, after knocking out the giant Goliath with a sling-slung stone, beheaded the warrior with his own sword and brought the skull to this same hill near Jerusalem – a foreshadowing of the Lord's King’s ultimate victory over evil.

Besides the physical locations in these stories about travel, people of many faiths symbolize these journeys and use them to describe spiritual growth: We “seek the summit”; we “get lost in the tangled jungle” of doubts; “stormy fears” might battle within us; the “desert” is commonly known as a symbol of a time in one’s life where there are hardships and few resources; the “wilderness” is part of a spiritual journey – all alone, no landmarks or obvious direction, wandering, no comforts or rest, uncertainty…

"I am a stranger in a strange land," says Moses, giving his son this name (Exodus 2:22), a pilgrim on a journey through this life on Earth bound for the Heavenly Land.

The ultimate of travel and wandering is the arrival, homecoming, or reunion at the end of the journey, but not without some sort of guidance or help. The theme is found worldwide: the Bodisatva finds the Golden City but turns back to aid others on their journey; the Tao speaks of the sage who guides others; Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Despite all our modern technology and comforts that may give us a feeling of security and independence, we need to remember that throughout the course of humanity, those travelling the journey relied on guidance and others to help them reach their desired destination, and perhaps so should we.