“We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.”
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Being on the road is something I’ve always enjoyed and this is probably due to the many memories of road trips throughout my own childhood that I deeply cherish, but it wasn’t until my most recent trip to visit the Detroit community that I formed a deeper understanding of what it means to journey through places that are unknown. Before I continue you should probably know that my drive up to the Motor City is actually one I know fairly well and find to be typically restorative. While I typically enjoy this long and winding road (sometimes even with the company of a good Beatles' tune), this most recent journey was full of so many twists and turns that at times I felt what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin aptly described as being "in suspense and incomplete".
It’s probably helpful to know for context's sake that my Google maps route was connected to the CarPlay feature in my car, which I’d never really used prior to this drive. You may already know this but this feature turned out to be consequential because it grants your vehicle control over the connected phone so that the driver can no longer see the entire overview of their journey-- just the next right step that requires their attention. I know this sounds silly but this small, unexpected surrender of control became increasingly frustrating for me since a) I like to see the big picture in order to know that I'm on the right track and, relatedly, b) even when I know I’m being guided in the right direction, I feel the natural desire to be in control of the specific journey that’s intended for me.
This is to say that when rubber literally met the road on my journey up to Detroit I had to confront this inner tension; the inevitable construction roadblocks and traffic slowdowns along the path caused my route to constantly reconfigure, and this CarPlay feature made it feel impossible to have foresight or control over the journey. Unsurprisingly, this led to an increased ETA and naturally, for me, a decreased patience for and trust in the navigation system.
I reached a point in the journey (on an isolated back road in Cassopolis, Michigan to be exact) when I had no choice but to surrender my trust to the navigation’s prompting and just follow the next right step it offered. Making the decision to do so was the only thing that would eventually bring me to my desired destination. It wasn’t smooth sailing from there either, for I drove the rest of the trip with knuckles tightly gripping the wheel through rolling storms on rural roads, but man was reaching the destination and beholding the view there so well worth it.
It led me to Lindsay Baca's reading of Los Tres Tamalitos to her third-graders at Holy Redeemer, to exploring the midtown district with Sean, Lia, and Grant during our respective walks and appreciating the local coffee shop with Nick during our paired time. Of course, Kristin's signature salad would've been delicious despite my crazy trip to reach their home but I know I savored us gathering for that meal all the more because of the long journey I'd traveled to get there.
This is all a long way of coming back to Teilhard de Chardin and this prayer on what it means to build patient trust. Perhaps some of you can relate to this feeling of impatience when stuck in the middle “something unknown, something new”. I know I certainly can. Whether you’re experiencing days with constant twists or relationships that turn out to be different than what you’d imagined, we can probably all agree that restless feelings of impatience are a natural part of the journey we’re on.
Here’s what I want to keep remembering and what I hope you can recall with when that feeling inevitably creeps in:
“it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.”
This is what progress means. As Frederick Douglass simply and wisely once stated, “if there is no struggle, there is no progress." This may not always sound like the most desirable route but there is hope and in our ability to build patience in struggle and trust in what guides us. Praying for you all and here with you in the journey ahead.
Loving God, thank you for the moments that make me feel in suspense and incomplete. Help me see the ways that experiences of struggle keep me on the road to the progress you have in store for me. Amen.
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach.