It got me thinking. Spending as much time traveling as I do, I can relate to the comment at a visceral level. A week ago, for example, it took me over 25 hours to go from Monterey to Memphis! It can seem like such a waste of time when delay upon delay keeps us from making positive forward progress. We have our destination firmly in mind, yet everything seems to conspire against our reaching it. No matter how crucial our timetable is, we are completely helpless in the face of unexpected maintenance issues, late arriving in-bound aircraft, baggage mistakenly loaded on a plane that doesn’t match a particular traveler, or connections so short that it’s impossible to get from one terminal to the next before the plane does leave the ground.
Even when we take that first step onto the jet bridge, settle ourselves in the seat, buckle up, endure the overly familiar flight attendant’s safety speech and feel the plane start its taxi along the airstrip, we still cannot be sure we’re getting any closer to our destination. There on the Tarmac, the plane may come to a halt and just when we’re wondering what is happening, we hear the pilot informing everyone that air traffic is heavy and there are eight other planes that must take off before us. Those extra minutes can mean missing our connection in the next city, which means we are still not going to arrive at our destination as planned. The more connections in a trip, the riskier it is that we will not reach our destination at the expected time, if at all.
While this scenario is a regular reality in air travel these days, the image serves as a metaphor for the rest of our life, as well. We hear from countless sources that it is the journey, more than the destination that is important. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to do much toward alleviating the anxiety and stress that accompany difficulties, struggles, false hopes, and broken promises that so frequently occur as a journey unfolds.
When we are not reaching a goal, or aspiration, or spiritual challenge that we have set for ourselves, it can feel like we’re spending too much time in an airport waiting for a plane that hasn’t left the ground. Even if we have a vision, have made a plan, and have set objectives, our soul may still flag. It may be that our motivation meanders, or another more compelling vision beckons, or life circumstances change, or others are nowhere to be found when their help is most needed. It can be tempting to just give up completely, and sometimes we do. In those moments, all we are thinking about is the destination, not the journey.
The words that Jesus told Martha might help us to take heart and get back to being attentive to the moment. Jesus told Martha that she was concerned about too many things and that her sister, Mary, who seemed to be doing nothing at all, was actually doing exactly the right thing. In other words, what is important is this moment – not the destination, not even the journey – just this moment. It doesn’t matter if we are overly anxious about hosting a fabulous dinner party as Martha was, or deepening our meditation practice, or being more attentive to our family, or building a new structure for worship. What really matters is keeping our soul settled in the presence of God no matter what is going on around us.
True life never consists in reaching a destination – even if that destination is the fulfillment of some important personal spiritual goal. True life consists in bringing our soul into union with the One who loved us into being, right now. In this moment. In every moment. Right now. Always now. This moment. Now.