A Different kind of Road Trip

Jon Owen

UNOH Bidwill, Sydney, Australia

On a remote dusty road in the Queensland outback a few weeks ago, I couldn’t stop my urban, middle class habits from surfacing. This time it was in the form of coffee – my need for a good short black. There’s a cafe in a little town called Boulia that serves quite possibly the worst coffee in the world. “It doesn’t disappoint because it does” should be its motto.

We all know that change takes time; our lives are a testament to that. However as we sit with our neighbours, a sense of expectation is born within our hearts and we yearn for tomorrow’s dream to become today’s reality. “How long, O Lord?” we cry (Psalm 13).

Our hopes and dreams can make us impatient. That’s dangerous. The only thing you can do with Rome in a day is burn it, and sometimes our hearts burn too brightly. Selfishly. Despairingly. One of the dreams I’ve always held is that my heart would find a home. A place of connection and deep belonging (beyond what I experience in my nuclear family). After a lifetime of seeking this place and not finding it, I went on a trip with two mates, driving from Brisbane to Alice Springs and beyond.
I had hoped that as we journeyed closer to the heart land of the Dreaming Story, I would discover some kind of connection. As we sat in the red dust drinking billy tea, listening to elders share their hearts, the lesson of disappointment at Boulia returned. “Our culture is dying” they told us. “Who will continue our story when we die, and when all the young fellas are leaving this place?” they asked. “Where do we fit in, in this new modern Australia?”
More and more, I find myself asking the same kinds of questions. Perhaps we are only united through our sense of disconnection to land, to people, to culture. Our hearts will always be in limbo here. We are all Samaritans, always on the outer, never feeling quite in the right place.

However, the challenge for those of us who follow Jesus isn’t whether we are Samaritans, it’s about whether we can be good neighbours. Our hearts can find comfort in Jesus, the one who knows rejection. Then we have the patience to bear other people talk about their disappointments and hurts. Our hearts can find a home in Him, just as the Psalmist realised when he wrote:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Psalm 84: 5-7

A little later on in history, Augustine wrote:
Our souls are restless until they find rest in thee.

And more recently, Ross Langmead wrote a beautiful song that encapsulates this well:
In Jesus God was a refugee
The pain of God has set us free
In God we’ll find our home1

Rather than desiring the ultimate short black that will satisfy our immediate desires in the here and now, maybe we need to sit down over a long cuppa with our neighbours. That would make us less dangerous. That would put us in the right place to “love our neighbour as ourselves” as we join them on this pilgrimage we call “life”, on the road to the Heavenly City (where the really good coffee awaits us). It’s a different kind of road trip. It may not change the world, but it’ll sure change your heart.

1. We Are Pilgrims edited by Darren Cronshaw and Rosemary Dewerse, (Dandenong: UNOH, 2015), p. 17.