Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. – Psalm 139:7-8 (NRSV)
Sometimes traveling is heaven. Sometimes it is hell. What it always is: a growth experience!
Travel makes brains young again. As we encounter new people and novel situations, our neurocircuitry goes off its well-worn paths to forge fresh psychic roads.
As some of us age, we get a little too comfortable staying put. Wanderlust, like libido, may fade with the decades. We prefer the comfort of our bed, the roads more traveled. We need reminding that movement has always been the way of God’s people: from old Abraham searching for homeland, to the Hebrew wilderness wanderers, to Jesus himself. He may not have traveled very far from where he was born, but he was constantly on the move encountering new people, culture and situations, and letting them expand his thinking and being.
I recently took my first trip out of the country in a long time – my first adult-friend trip without kids in tow. We had hair-raising rides in Mexico City’s storied traffic, ate bugs on purpose, and museumed galore.
On the last day, tired out from the heat, the (inedible) mosquitoes, and the din of one of the world’s busiest cities, we cloistered in our downtown condo. It was easy to do. The avenue was closed off for blocks in either direction as thousands of protestors took to the streets. Bands tuba’ed by in an endless circular picket. Cannons went off at 8-second intervals.
I went out into the scrum to get some medicine for a friend, and found the convenience stores barricaded shut. Even though the mood was friendly and the riot police lax in their posture, I found my anxiety rising.
I asked someone what the protest was for. “For Claudia Sheinbaum to become the first woman and first Jewish President of Mexico!” came the answer. “Can you imagine? In a country as macho as Mexico?” It was a protest hoping to crown a woman king. I felt Jesus at my elbow. And joined in shouting.
God, make me always eager to wander. And when my body can’t anymore, let me feast on these memories. Amen.
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more. Sign up for her author newsletter or get information about her newest book at mollybaskette.com.