*This post is the latest in an ongoing series where I try to find sermons hiding behind life’s monotony. . .and fail miserably.
Yesterday I drove a 26 foot long moving truck packed with the vast majority of my life’s belongings across southern Idaho to northern Utah.
There is much theological reflection that happens during life’s transitions. The irony of moving on Ash Wednesday was not lost on me. The words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” seemed a fitting summary of the junk packed U-Haul. Also, the underlying reality of why I left one ministry assignment for another seemed particularly poignant. I heard from God and after hearing from God there was no way to not obey though I pleaded for a different message. Still, as I pulled out of that wonderful town in Eastern Oregon, I could not help but pray, “God please give me the love for the new congregation that you gave me for the old.” But sustained and prayerful theological reflection soon gave way to more frivolous meanderings as the miles racked up on the odometer.
Now I grew up in Idaho and absolutely love the state. It is a wonderful state full of mountains and lakes and rivers and hot springs and trees and all kinds of good creation. But southern Idaho, the part along I-84, is the exception that proves the rule. You can see the mountains in the distance, little molehills popping up on the horizon with some white still on them. But you have to squint and focus really hard to see that. And when you are driving a massive 26 foot long truck with your life’s possessions in it, turning your head left and squinting is not a good idea.
So you stare at the road ahead and try not to think about how brown and flat the terrain is and how straight the road ahead lies. If John the Baptist was sent to make the paths straight, he did a fine good job in southern Idaho.
There are a few towns out there to break up the monotony, though not many. By some historical joke people named these towns things like, “Bliss” and “Paradise” and “Eden.”
Like most devout Christians, I have a picture in my head of what Eden looks like and that picture does not include a gas station in the middle of sagebrush. Yet there Eden, ID is, a truckstop and some sagebrush with a few singlewide trailers around it. Bliss and Paradise are not much better off.
To be fair, I have read Well`s “The Jungle” and I know how bad city life was at the time people were immigrating out west. I also know my fair deal about the Oregon Trail (mostly from the awesome video game) and about how bad the journey was. So I can totally understand that after Grandma starved to death in a Chicago slum and Timmy died of cholera in southern Wyoming how a wonderful family arrived in the sagebrush of southern Idaho and were fooled into thinking, “we just found Paradise.” Still, you think future generations would have changed the name.
Yet I suppose there is a larger statement here about the human capactity for love. After all somewhere in the not to distant past there was a person or a family who saw that sagebrush in that desert and fell in love with it. Nobody anywhere else would love that sagebrush so much to call it bliss, but to that family, it was.
It kind of reminds me of a wonderful verse in Job. It is towards the end, when God is having God`s say and it is not a pleasant conversation. God is asking Job a series of questions meant to humiliate Job and in the middle of the questioning God suddenly blurts out, “I make it rain in the desert!” Nothing grows in the desert. It is an absolute waste to water it. Yet our God loves deserts and waters them anyway.
Perhaps there is a God given capacity in us humans to love deserts as well and maybe Bliss and Eden are a testimony to that.
Or maybe I just drove way too many miles yesterday and am not caffeinated enough today. Either way, there is probably a sermon in there somewhere.