One of the true joys of Christmas – at least for me – has always been spending time with family.
When my own children were little, we had a Christmas day routine that might sound horrible but actually worked out quite well. We’d get up Christmas morning, open presents at our house, then load up and drive to Memphis for Christmas with my wife’s family. While you might think kids would be unhappy at just opening presents then being told to pack up and leave, you’d have to understand that my wife is one of 10 children, and my kids knew that going to Christmas in Memphis meant tons of presents plus the absolute fun that was the chaos of Christmas with her clan. And, when we came back home, all their presents were there and it was like Christmas all over again!
I was thinking about this the other day, and how, when I was a child, we’d load up the car and make the drive from home in East Point, Ga., and go to see my grandparents in Phillipsburg, N.J., the house my father grew up in.
This was in the days when the Interstate system was still new, which meant we had to take Highway 29 a lot of the way (I-85 wasn’t completed until 1970). Highway 29 was also Main Street in East Point, but at one time was a major road that ran from Pensacola, Fla., to near Baltimore, Md.
My father was a beast. I never appreciated it when he was alive, but now I marvel at his stamina and the sacrifices he made for his family. The routine for these trips to Phillipsburg was further evidence of that. He’d work a full day, come home, load up the car, and then start driving. His theory was, I guess, that the rest of us would sleep while he drove, lessening the distractions to him. My mother did not share in the driving (a trait that I have picked up in that I do all the driving in my immediate family). I would say I don’t know how my Dad did it, but I have found myself doing the same thing.
The internet says it’s an almost 13-hour drive from East Point to Phillipsburg today. I have no idea how much longer it took back then, going through towns and stoplights and twists and turns. I know this: we didn’t stop for the night. My parents could not afford a motel room along the way. Maybe we stopped for my Dad to take a quick nap, but if we did, I don’t remember it. It seemed like we got into the car in my driveway at night, and sometime the next afternoon, we’d be pulling in front of my grandparents’ house in New Jersey.
It could not have been an easy trip. There are turns even staying on Highway 29, and at some point, you had to get off Highway 29 to continue the journey. We didn’t have GPS to tell us turn-by-turn.
Here’s the thing:
I was completely confident that my dad would get us where we were going. I never asked, “Dad, do you know where you’re going?” because he’d have said, “Yes, son, I’m going home, to my father’s house.”
I never asked, “Are you sure you know the way? I mean, there’s a lot of twists and turns, and we’ve got to cover a lot of miles” because he’d have said, “Yes, son, I know the way by heart.”
I never rode along questioning his turns or timing. If I had, I’m sure he’d have said something like, “It’s OK, son. Here’s what you should do – look for these signs along the way that will let us know we’re on the right road. Sometimes we’ll go a long way without a sign, but they will be there when we need them. About the time you’ll think we’ve gotten lost, we’ll see a highway sign or something that lets us know we’re on the right path and haven’t lost our way.”
Whatever doubts I had about my father, I never doubted his ability to find his way to the house he grew up in, to his father’s house.
It occurs to me how much this is like what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am…”
I started this journey with Jesus many years ago. I know where I am going – to Jesus’ Father’s house. The only part of the route that I know is to trust in Jesus, just as I trusted that my father knew how to get to his father’s house, just as my children know their way back to my house.
Sometimes along the way, I feel lost, like I’ve made a wrong turn or this road can’t possibly be the right one. And sometimes I find I have taken a wrong turn. But inevitably, somewhere along the way and very often at just the right time, there will be a sign. Sometimes when I’m ready to give up and turn around or sit down, something happens to remind me of where I am going, and that I’m either on the right path or here’s the turn to get back on the right road.
I am thankful for the many lessons my father taught me – most of which I wasn’t aware of at the time.
Like this one: A son knows his way home.
Ray Melick is Editor-in-Chief of 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]