“It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end” Ursula Le Guin
I was driving out to another aboriginal community yesterday, just a day trip but beautiful country and another challenging dirt road. Not a challenge to drive on it per se but to drive on it fast! I guess driving has always been a thing I’ve had great interest in and spent a lot of time perfecting.
It started in my early years as a child living out in the bush and watching my dad keep all our old junk cars going. I can remember as a child of 8 or 10 standing on a box, leaning over the edge of a car, peering at the engine while my dad worked with wrenches and other tools to restore it to running status. He’d rev up the engine and say, “hear that sound, that ticking, that’s the tappets and they sound like that because of …” Then he would make adjustments and rev it up again so I could hear the difference in all the sounds he was pointing out for me to hear.
That was in the old days when you could look under the hood and see all of the components that made up a car motor with lots of space on either side where you could see clear down to the ground. Now days the space under the hood is packed solid with unrecognizable items, hoses, cables, wires and plastic objects. But back then my dad could do anything with the engines on our cars with a few simple tools and like magic we would be back on the road.
As we drove he would point out sounds in the engine, drive shaft, rear end, wheels, brakes and other parts of the car. He could identify everything that was happening in our car as we drove along and he taught me to understand the meanings of those sounds.
I am still sensitive to those things and it surprises people riding with me when I recognize sounds in vehicles that they pay no attention to. I can feel things in the steering, alignment, brakes and other parts that go bump in the night as you drive. Most people, men included, don’t hear or feel those things anymore because the new cars don’t welcome backyard mechanics touching them for service or repairs hence we all stop listening and feeling because there is no need.
Unfortunately this is so true of most things in our lives; we are drifting further out of touch with the reality of life which is leading to our ultimate loss of what God created us to be and to have. That is why I welcome the chance to drive down a dirt road on the way to my work site, alone with God and my senses of hearing the car, feeling the big machine propel me over the ruts, soft sand and pebbles, listen to the engine, see the dust roll up behind me and hear the voice of God in my spirit.
I drove off the last of the paved road onto the dirt and reached down to pop the vehicle into 4-wheel drive. No more getting out and turning the ring on the hub to put the car into 4-wheel drive, just press a button and a drawing of a chassis with 4 wheels lights up in green on the dash screen. Another part of technology I do love. I didn’t even have to stop driving and then I felt the change in the car as the front wheels took on their part in driving the vehicle. A sense of stability could be felt in the whole vehicle and I accelerated faster as I kept an eye on the road ahead.
You can actually drive a good dirt road quite fast if you watch the changes in the terrain and use common sense. I just enjoy driving a good speed and adjusting as the road changes from firm to soft, rocky to washboard or to holes and dips. Feeling the response of the vehicle and feeling a part of it as I navigate a dirt road.
As I drove I watched the dust cloud I was making in the rear-view mirrors. We have had some rain but it is still a desert and dries out quickly. I noticed the dust billowing up behind my wheels looked much the same as the wake pattern behind twin boat engines. When I lived on the east coast and took the ferry over to the islands I always sat in the back so I could watch the wake at the back of the catamaran. Call me a loon but I thought how clever of God to put me in a job where I could drive these dirt roads and see a wake of dust that gave me the same joy as seeing a boat wake on water.
The wind was starting to blow across the road ahead of me in bursts. I’d see a cloud of dust way up ahead and think a car was coming toward me but when I got to the dust it was just wind blowing it across the road in one section. Past that it was calm and the only dust was what I made. There were dust devils coming across the relatively flat country and crossing the road too. Sometimes I’d drive right into them and look in the mirror to see them pick up all my dust and take it on across the country to deposit it elsewhere.
I was having so much fun just driving along experiencing natural occurrences all due to God’s creation and added to by man’s inventions, my vehicle, which again was from God’s influence on the creative ability of men. It all came together with God in the center and I felt He planned it for my joy.
I had my iPod plugged into the USB port of the vehicle with my favourite worship music and it just doesn’t get any better than that. I drove along and all the ugly thoughts provoked by the news media, evil plans of men and women in control, cost of living, grumpy co-workers, the too small granny flat I live in and the desire for better things just out of reach drifted away with the whirl winds and dust.
I started thinking of where I was right then and how God had moved for many years in my life to bring me to this exact day, minute and second. I am old, nearly worn out, but still able to do what God has set before me. I’ve wasted a lot of years, by my thinking but God still has a use for me. I am doing exactly what I was created to do.
I thought of my good friend and spiritual mentor Randy, going off to the mission field in his late teens and 20’s as I spent endless hours riding my horses, working at pointless jobs and doing very little toward anything worthwhile. Yet God was pruning and training me in ways that were unknown, unrecognized by me at the time. Seeds were being planted from everything and everyone that I passed by in all those years.
I think about my dad wanting in the worst way to come to Australia when I was in my very early 20’s. What would have happened if I’d come here in those days with my whole life before me? Would I have ended up where I am now with many years to work with the aboriginal people instead of only the comparative few I have left to me now? I have to believe that God knows exactly what is best and what works for us and Him in His plan. I needed everything I learned in those years behind me, every seed needed to be planted, nurtured and grown to the stage I am in now. I believe that and I trust God in it and thank Him for it.
It is easy to look at those who have spent years in the field and think “why couldn’t I have had that?” I work with people now who have been out here for 30 years and I feel regret that I can’t say that about myself. I think “why didn’t I get here sooner and why don’t I have more years to spend with these people?”
Then I think of what joy I get from my job. I work with a great crew who help each other, who care about what they are doing and don’t seem to even notice my age. Old age now is considered maturity and desired and respected in some jobs.
I think of the people who will never get this opportunity I have, don’t have good health, don’t have the Grace of God in their lives to direct, guide and protect them from the ravages of old age that some face. I know that the journey I’ve taken is what matters right now as I move toward the end. I have excellent health, lots of energy, skills I’ve earned over the years and a clear mind that can still learn new ways of talking, sharing, helping and using programs on the computer.
As I drive to distant communities over roads that younger people can’t handle and on arrival see the faces of the Aboriginal people light up, the smiles start appearing and hands start to wave I know that God has saved the best for last!