Beliefnet
Leaving Salem

Earlier this year my family and I rolled into the wild-west town ofFlagstaff,Arizona. It was an epic journey, one we had planned on for more than a year, and one I had anticipated since my first son was born more than ten years ago. Having traveled through a great deal of the American West, I wanted nothing more than for the day to come when my children would see and experience it for themselves. I guess I am more than a bit of a romantic about such things.

So now that they were all in school, it seemed like the right time to fill their vista with the shapes, colors, diversity, and majesty of Arizona’s desert. I knew they would be blown away by it all just as I was, and still am. For a week we rambled along the highways, railways, and airways. We saw the Painted Desert, the Hopi and Navajo Nations, the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, Montezuma’s Castle, and the ruins of the Sinaqua people. It was fantastic, but not quite as grand as I had hoped.

My children would barely lift their heads from their electronic games or unplug the earphones from their ears long enough to enjoy the wonder of God’s world around them. And even while at our lodge for the week, they spent more time in the hot tub and at the kid’s activity center than they did outside. Even as we rolled into Flagstaff– on the very first day – I knew we were in trouble. Playing the role of eager tour guide I blabbered on and on about what we saw just outside our rented minivan’s windshield.

“Look! Those are theSan Francisco Peaks, dormant volcanoes! Over there – that is a stand of Ponderosa pine trees! Wow! The Lowell Observatory, where the planet Pluto was discovered! And there is the roadway to Meteor Crater – isn’t this exciting!”

On and on I flapped my gums, answered only with silence from the backseat, not a word of acknowledgment. Finally, my oldest son howled in excitement: “Oh, my God! There’s Best Buy!” It was the most enthusiasm I saw out of any of them all week.

But I didn’t give up. I spent a great deal of time redirecting my children’s attention. Repeatedly I told them, “Our time here is short, so put your toys away. Look around you. Open your eyes. Open your ears. You may never pass this way again.” My boys are probably no different than most of us. We set out on our journeys but hardly lift our heads up or open our ears to the wonder around us. We let the time pass, the miles clicking by, obsessed with lesser things. Things that have no lasting value while the glory of a greater world surrounds us.

The suffering saint of the Old Testament, Job, said: “My life is going fast, like a ship under full sail.” His days moved as swiftly as a runner sprinting toward the finish line. We know how right he was.

It seems this year just began. Now is half gone. It is easy, when time flies and living is less than we expected, to bury ourselves in less important things. The real danger for us all is to come around to another year and be exactly where we were twelve months ago, playing games, having missed the chance to redirect our lives.

Still stuck in a job we loath. Still planning to take that big chance, or that big move. Still at odds with the long-estranged loved one we hope to one day reconcile. Still tripping over the same addiction, trapped in that same poisonous relationship, lost in the same soul-sucking routine.

With heads buried and ears stuffed shut we press into another year, oblivious to the majesty of God’s world, ways, and voice around us. Time is far too short to live like this, and deep in our hearts, we know it. Another year has passed, and our time here is short. So put away your toys. Look around you. Open your eyes. Open your ears. You will never pass this way again.

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