I’m from Chicago, born and raised. I’ve been riding on our overcrowded expressways for nearly sixty years. There are certain interchanges I’ve learned to avoid. The one interchange I don’t go anywhere near is at I294 and I290 affectionately termed by locals as the Hillside Strangler.
Anyone who lives in the area knows that you can easily get on the wrong highway if you aren’t familiar with the system. But that’s because I live off of 294. When I was a child we lived off of 290 which we didn’t call 290. I was the Congress expressway until they changed it to the Eisenhower.
Whenever we would go visit my Grandfather we took the Eisenhower to the the Kennedy. I loved riding through what Grandpa called, spaghetti junction. There is signage but when traffic is moving at 60 mph it’s easy to be in the wrong lane and end up on the Dan Ryan headed in the wrong direction. My life feels that way from time to time. Grandpa hated driving on the expressway. He preferred local roads. He was a delivery driver for a local wholesale flower market. He drove most days on the expressways throughout the city and suburbs. My brother can attest to the fact that the man drove like a maniac.
There were times when I felt like my life was on the expressway. I wasn’t really taking in the surroundings I was just intent on getting to my destination as expeditiously as possible. When I was a part of the daily commute I was definitely a third lane – get out of my way- kind of driver. Now that I am no longer count myself a member of the morning scramble and evening home bound rush I am a designated right laner. My life is usually more like a stroll down a country lane than a high speed trek down the highway. I’ve come to appreciate the slower pace and the sights along the way.
It’s as much about the journey
When I was a kid Grandpa would pick up my brother and me to take us to a beach. He did not take the expressway. We thought getting to the beach was the goal. It was, but not the only goal. Grandpa was a child at heart and he loved adventure. He valued play. He worked hard. And when he played he played like a child plays. He loved picnics and baseball. He played frisbee. He loved camping and boating and swimming. He put his whole self into it and sucked every minute out of it that he could. So NO expressways!!! Driving including the singing of songs, silly songs, sometimes made up songs. But there were definitely songs. “Pack up all my cares and woes, here I go swinging low, bye, bye blackbird.” Grandpa had a repertoire of old songs. He loved music, dance, ice cream, roller skating and just about any outdoor activity. He enjoyed enjoyment. The goal was to have fun not merely get to the beach.
So there we were driving up Route 45. Grandpa slowly meandered his way through each small town along the way. The purpose was not just getting to the beach it was enjoyment for the sake of enjoyment. He enjoyed the drive, every slow turn along the way. The slower pace meant he could take in the sights. “You never know what you might find if you slow down and look.” Grandpa was a rubbernecker from way back. If he saw something that caught his eye he would pull over and get out. I didn’t always value Grandpa’s rubberneck tours. Sometimes I just wanted to get to the beach. But you couldn’t move Grandpa any faster than Grandpa wanted to go. And on these occasions Grandpa meandered. The drive had to be just as relaxing and enjoyable as being at the beach.
Grandpa’s motto – “Drive Local”
I learned to enjoy the ride. I did not enjoy playing slug bug with my brother. He hit too hard. My brother got to be the navigator. Grandpa taught us both how to read a map, but Steve was older so he sat up front with the map while I sat in the back with our beach paraphernalia learning to embrace the pace. I would picture the slide that went into the water, the boats out on the lake, the sand, the snacks. There would be ice cream. And I watched for how many landmarks I could recognize along the way. There was one landmark in particular I watched for.
It was a small grocery store where we would get chips and pop and candy for the beach. It has been there as far back as I can remember. It looks a bit more spiffier these days than it did fifty years ago.
Anyway, it was my favorite landmark on this journey. it was my favorite because I knew once we saw this little grocery store the beach was just a few minutes down the road. The meandering drive that had taken us over an hour was nearly over. The beach with all of its wonders and delights was now within reach.
Grandpa knew once we got there he would spend the rest of the day relaxing. He looked forward to these days. Not just for the enjoyment of the beach but for the refreshment he needed for his soul. And that refreshment began on the slow journey along the way. The meandering had been intentional. He used the ride to unwind and adjust his mind for a so he could spend the rest of the day relaxing. He knew if he took the expressway he’d be all stressed out by the traffic. It would be harder to unwind and rejuvenate.
Being at the beach was rejuvenating. It was a break from the norm, a fountain of youth. It was restorative. He knew if he took a slower pace getting there he could draw every ounce of refreshment from the intoxicating elixir. The ride readied him for enjoyment. The worries and cares didn’t come on this trip. He left them behind. There was nothing to be anxious about here. He could play and dive and swim and not think. His soul would bask in the warm embrace of the sun as it eased his aches and pains. We drank in every ounce of substance the beach had to offer.
After a long hot day in the sun we slowly packed our sandy paraphernalia into the back of the car. We were exhausted. Now it was time to bid the beach a fond farewell. Grandpa insisted, “Say thank you to the beach for all the fun we had to day.” In unison Steve and I dutifully shouted, “Good bye, Beach! Thank you for all the fun we had today.” It was a wonderful feeling. But the day wasn’t over yet. There was one more landmark before going home. Grandpa’s motto was not only drive local but eat local. And that meant stopping at the Dog n Suds down the road.
Our bodies tired and our belly’s full we slept most of the way back. It was a a great day. It was a good day. It was familiar. I knew what to expect from the day. And the day did not disappoint. Having made this trip every year throughout my childhood the trip is embedded in my memory. I can almost feel the sand between my toes. The signs still bring a smile to my face. All I have to do is think about Mundelein, IL and my mind goes to the little grocery store, Diamond Lake and the Dog-n-Suds.
Landmarks, road signs and guide posts
Jeremiah 31:21“Set up for yourself road marks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went. …”NASB
I’ve been meditating on this verse for the better part of this week. My habit is to take a verse of scripture and break it down. What I mean by that is; I look in the original language and dig deep into each word until I’ve uncovered something that speaks into my life. Something came to mind: the peace of God that passes understanding.
Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NASB
While contemplating the peace of God, road marks and guideposts came to mind. Peace is one of those road signs that tells you are on one of God’s roadways. Like the signs along IL route 45 that direct me to the beach. Peace, or rather the lack of peace, can let you know when I’ve made a right or wrong turn. The lack of peace let’s us know when somehow I ended up on the road of anxiety.
Following the road of anxiety is like driving the expressway. It is filled with stress that can lead to bad decisions and regrettable actions. When our minds are quieted and our insides are still we can connect with God in a way we can’t when our minds are cluttered with anxiety, fear, doubt, or whatever.
I don’t make major decisions when I’m upset or unsure. I quiet myself so I can make the decision from a clear and calm mind. It isn’t always easy. I have to work hard to get there. Sometimes it means postponing a decision. Sometimes it isn’t about making a decision. Maybe it’s just interacting with someone I find challenging. Maybe it’s the stresses of life.
When I’m in anxiety I find that I get back in peace when I take a mental trip in back of Grandpa’s old Rambler. I wrap up in God’s amazing grace as I picture myself asleep among the beach paraphernalia. I rubberneck my way through one small town after another until I finally see the landmark of peace. Then and only then do I know I’m almost there. I pull into the parking lot of the little grocery store and I stock up on all the grace I need for my day at the beach. I spend my day soaking in the presence of God like the warm summer sun. Before I leave this place of grace I make one more stop. I pull in to the DognSuds and I get filled up on the full meal of what Christ did for me on the cross. I partake of a meal with Jesus. I take in all I can possibly consume. I consume His mercy, His grace, His delight, His patience, His kindness, and His incredible love.
Then I climb back in the car and let Him bring me back home. Now, I know I will be able to face the situation. I will be able to interact with that person, deal with that situation, or endure that crisis. I have all I need because I spent the day enjoying the presence of God and letting Him refresh me in His wonderful presence.
Whatever helps, I make my way to that beachy place of peace inside. Peace is there. I have to get off the expressway of life’s demands and other people’s expectations. There are times when, for the sake of my own sanity, I have to take slower and more relaxing route. I rubberneck my way along the familiar path of a lifetime of communing time with God.
I’ll get there. He will bring me there. I just have to let Him. I know that if I seek him I will find him. (Pr 8:17) Peace for my soul is there. I get off the highway of anxiety. I climb in the backseat. I can learn to enjoy the meandering road of unwinding while He brings me to that place of refreshment and peace.
I might not know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what my life will be like a year from now. I know that God is good even when bad things happen that shake me to my core. I have learned that God really is the God of all comfort. (2 Cor. 1:3) I know that in His presence I will find rest for my soul and peace for my mind. (Ps 62:5)
I pray that God will comfort you in all your affliction and that you may know the peace of God that passes understanding.
May the peace of God be multiplied to you through Christ our Lord, Amen