Do you know where you want to go before you die?
That’s the subject of the reality show, “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” which chronicles the journey of a young couple who put their lives on hold to travel the world. The show tugs at the wanderlust in most of us who want to go “someplace, someday.”
I knew a man in the first church I pastored who felt this way. He was our music minister. He’d always wanted to see the United States in a recreational vehicle, but he’d delayed his plans all his life.
Upon his 65th birthday, he and his wife bought an RV. A few weeks later, our church saw them off in the early morning light as they left the little town of
Hopland, Calif., and headed east.
A month later, I received what seemed like a random phone call. In a voice filled with trembling and fright, I heard our music minister say, “She’s gone.”
“What? Who? How do you mean?” I asked groggily.
“My wife,” he said.
Through his sobs, I heard him explain he’d been driving on the Ohio interstate when he and his wife began to argue about something that seemed insignificant. Suddenly, she turned to him and said something about wanting to go home.
In one terrifying instant, she opened the door and slid herself out of the moving vehicle.
A postmortem revealed she had undiagnosed brain tumors that caused her thinking to go awry. Her life really ended long before she knew it. They had waited all their lives to celebrate life and seize their day, and suddenly it was gone.
Christian tradition tells us about two revolutionaries on their final road trip. They’d also seen their dreams of a new world die as they hung on a cross on each side of Jesus.
One man ridiculed Jesus, but the other hinted he had a lifelong desire to engage in a spiritual road trip. He had hoped to find a truer path for his life than he had found, but thankfully in his last few life breaths, Jesus granted him a road trip to paradise.
Talk about networking. This guy finally was in the right place at the right time.
Yet you have to wonder how this man had spent his life.
Had he spent it always wondering about spiritual things? Had he delayed the spiritual journey because it wasn’t the right time in life? It was a wonderful miracle that Jesus was there to stamp his paradise passport, but what might his life have been like had he started his journey much earlier?
Spiritual road trips almost always are expensive, but the cost of staying home almost always is a deflated life. It is easy to live life with the ambiguity of the “someday,” but there is a time where you must give your final answer. There is a moment when you must decide to take your life out of the “always wanted” category and place it into the “becoming” category.
This summer, I’ve decided to do just that — to become.
You see, I’ve “always wanted” to write a fiction book, but I’ve always made excuses. There was no time. There was no interest. Yada, yada, yada.
For me, it has become time to cut the excuses and take a leave of absence from my job as a chaplain. It’s time to become like the folks in the TV show who want to make their journey before they die.
What do you want to do before you die? What do you want to see before you die?
Whatever it is, do it, see it,