I recently ran across an article that Airstream posted in their social media outlets. It was about something called “transformational travel,” a new term to me, but one that makes a lot of sense. According to my reading, this type of travel happens when thoughtful persons go from place to place in an attempt to better understand who they are, get new perspectives on life, and gain far more than a cool experience. These people are looking to renew the soul, to create for themselves a renaissance of culture.
This notion of transformational travel resonated with me because of the way it sees travel as capable of providing much more than fun adventure. Fun and adventure are great, and I guess I enjoy it just as much as the next guy, but fun and adventure do not alone motivate my Airstream living and travel plans. So, I get what these transformational travel people are saying. Life is so very short, and each day should count for something bigger than us. For Alex and I, that bigger thing is to participate in and help forward the overarching purpose of God in human history: redemption. Sure, we want to do our part in sharing the gospel with others, but of equal importance, we want to make sure we keep a teachable spirit at all times. Travel teaches a person many things if one simply learns how to listen.
There is so much to learn about God, His power, and His never-ending creative ability. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I want to use the Airstream to travel in such a way that allows me to pursue Christ in places beyond my comfort zone. I served as pastoral staff in a local church for about two years. During that time I studied to become an ordained minister, and actually achieved that goal. But something was noticeably missing. I began to see how local pastors treated church more like a business than a passionate burden. I began to feel displaced among people in our local community. Church, it seemed, had become something one must “do” out of tradition, even though church had ceased to be traditional at all, but more modern in its programs, technology, and outreach schemes.
Didn’t Jesus say something about a prophet being without honor in his own country? There’s so much we want to learn about Christ and do for the Kingdom of God, but it seems those efforts are lost in our “home” community. Now here in the South, many people pride themselves on being good Christians. Maybe some of them actually are, but many are calling themselves believers out of tradition more than anything else. In short, it appears as if Christ has become mundane to people we know best, and there’s little if anything we can do to make others see how dynamic, fresh, and powerful God actually is. Why is that? Well, I think Christ was right: your own people just don’t take you seriously. Jesus did, after all, travel a fair good bit during his own ministry. So did the prophets of old, as well as the writers of the New Testament. Sometimes, travel is just necessary to get important things done.
So what could transformational travel mean to the searching believer? Quite possibly, everything. We’ve been criticized for not knowing enough about full-time Airstream living to provide commentary on it yet. Whatever. That’s beside the point. I can certainly tell you this: the closest I’ve felt to, I don’t know, my “life’s purpose,” are also those times when I’ve felt closest to God. Those times have never been in the local church house, or even in my parents’ house, but always when I am removed from the family and the familiar. That sounds bad to some, but it’s true. When family is always near, or when everything is going perfect and comfortably, those are times when I’ve neglected time with God. But when I don’t know what to expect next, when I know Daddy is not around the corner to solve my problems anymore, God’s presence becomes a driving force and a presence that is more real to me than the breath that fills my lungs.
The Great Commission tells believers to GO, to preach the gospel to all the earth, to make sound Disciples of Christ. Church has GOT to be something more than a business or a once a week social event. It has to be who the believer is, and it must always be transformative. So I guess in a way we are going to be “transformational travelers,” just not in the sense that we are looking to find ourselves, but in the ultimate sense that we crave a relationship with God that no other person can dictate, control, or place in some preconceived mold. In the words of that great Southern philosopher Jerry Clower, we hope to spend more time in “those places where God is most likely to be found.”
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