Traveling Through

I used to hop in a car and agree to go anywhere. Long dusty road trips or short last-minute excursions—I was game for either. Armed with Slim Jims, Oatmeal Creme Pies, and gas station coffee, we grabbed our play lists and went wherever we wanted. From the outside looking in, it was a compulsive exercise in radical spontaneity. It most certainly was not.

We had a code of conduct in the car. Some stinky foods were off limits. After all, you cannot drive with closed windows in the winter while someone is eating canned tuna. Also, the driver picks the music (and you pull over when you’re belting out “I Want to Know What Love Is” and breeze past a police officer). Finally, you don’t sleep if the driver also feels sleepy.

Before the days of smart phones, we kept a map with our favorite radio stations marked. We noted which gas stations were well lit, which ones were open late, and which ones had the best snacks. We logged which routes were under construction and which were quickest at certain times of the day. If we had a harrowing experience, we marked that place on the map with an “x.” Never again.

Today there are places in my traveling “to” that I hate traveling “through.” Road ways, itineraries, and paths that I either have a history with or am terrified of. Places that were sketchy or places that were painful. In my travels I have clearly crossed out where I do not want to go again.

As I create my itineraries, I think about the airports where I can find restaurants that serve Diet Coke instead of Diet Pepsi. The highways that are the least congested. The hotels with my favorite amenities. I try not to go through places that cramp my ability to work more efficiently. Once I lamented to my mom about this complexity of travel, and she blinked and said, “Why do we always avoid going through?”

Traveling “through” is where grit and resilience grow.

The valleys and pits that embody the “through” is where we discover the shadow parts of ourselves and where we re-engage the hard parts of our story.

They leak or explode out of us in the struggle that is the “through.”

I am grateful that “through” is just that – through. I may pause in the “through,” but I do not build a house there. It is uncomfortable and uncertain. It can be painful, yet it can also be beautiful. “Through” is a temporary destination. “Through” is through.

As I plan for the upcoming season, I will not spend my energy avoiding traveling through. Like my road trip days of old, I will bravely pull out my map and prepare for travel. I will highlight places of rest and prepare my playlists so that I can sing my way through the mountains and valleys. I will create a code of conduct that requires honesty and kindness and moves me to make bold choices. I will arm myself with Diet Coke and anticipate good conversation around tables filled with good food. I will let the “through” grow resilience inside of me that will make me gritty and glorious.

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor, and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can, because she believes in you.