Sounding Joy: Beep, beep!
I never thought I would say this but thank God for traffic.
I got my driver’s license when I was 23. When that ubiquitous plastic card arrived in the mail, I did not embrace it as my so-called ticket to freedom the way my friends had. To me, a license came with the fear of an accident and the struggle of insurance payments. I thought I would be that nervous, white-knuckled driver forever. That is, until I came to St. Paul.
On an afternoon in late August, I slammed the trunk of my Jeep Patriot, clicked my seatbelt into place, and waved a tearful goodbye to my parents, sister, and neighbors. By the time I hit the highway, I needed a windshield wiper for my eyes. Don’t get me wrong: I was very excited and grateful to be chosen as the next Pastor in Residency, but, at that moment, I desperately wished that Davenport was five minutes from my childhood home rather than five hours. A sudden beep beep! interrupted my silent sobs, and I saw a red pickup truck fly past me and force the little blue Honda Civic in front of it into my lane.
My first reaction was Seriously? How rude! We are all going the speed limit here! But I forced myself to have compassion for the red pickup. Maybe she just received news that her mother is about to take her last breath and is rushing to the hospital, or maybe he got his first college acceptance letter and cannot wait to show it to his dad. These musings turned into a game for me as I imagined the stories of the other drivers around me. Eventually, the heavy weight of loneliness began to ease off my chest. I started to think how miraculous and mysterious it was that all of us, from our different walks of life and unique destinations, could find ourselves on the road all together heading in the same direction. We would never all be in one place like that again.
That puzzling yet comforting revelation I had in traffic is the same revelation I experience again and again at Christmastime. From the gathering spaces of churches to the living rooms of homes to the grocery stores check-out lines, I see farmers and grandkids, doctors and mechanics, runners and quilters, all pause from their regular vocations and join together for fellowship. It is the closest thing I can imagine to the great pilgrimage Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem to be registered along with a busy traffic of people of all walks of life. Those sometimes unexpected moments of companionship amidst the business of the holidays reminds me that I am not alone. While my journey with Christ may steer me away from my comfort zone and towards unfamiliar places, I am part of a great community of people who have received the gift of the Christ child and then ask themselves Now what? How will I use this precious gift?
Our answers to these questions are, of course, unique to each of us, but together we sing (and honk) “Joy to the world! The Lord has come. Let earth receive her king.”
Megan Eide moved from Minnesota to Iowa to serve as the Pastoral Resident at St. Paul for the next two years. She lives in Davenport with her beloved pup, Nisse.