We’ve all heard it. At least those of us who have travelled with a child have heard it. Whether five minutes into the trip, or forty-five minutes; from the back seat of the vehicle the words will search us out and latch on to our rawest nerve.
Are we there yet?
I am not one of those patient souls whose gentle answer can calm the most frustrated youngster. (If you read my post “The Quiet Game”, you already knew that.) Perhaps because I’ve discovered they really don’t want to hear the answers I give them. Perhaps because no matter how many times I try to give them the answer I think they’re looking for, they keep asking.
Are we there yet?
From the front seat we volley back common responses like birdies in a verbal badmitton match. We’ll be there…
in about an hour
right before lunch time
after about four more songs have played on the radio
Then there are our attempts at distraction. We suggest things like the license plate game, coloring, or watching a movie. By the way, you parents today who have the benefit of dvd players and movies for your children… you have no idea how easy you have it. Here’s an example of what I had to rely on.
Are we there yet?
In another attempt to gain silence, I’ve threatened all manner of punishment if I hear that question once more. Children are masters at loopholes, so they rephrase the query. I’m no psychologist, but I believe their choice of rephrasing says a lot about the child’s personality.
When are we gonna get there? This child is the demanding one. They want to cut to the chase and get a hard and fast answer. They believe they deserve to know the full story.
How much farther is it? This youngster grows frustrated easily. They notice every McDonalds you drive past, not stopping to give them an hour or so in the PlayLand. They suspect you are purposely dragging them across half the country only to make their life more miserable.
How much loooonnngerrr? My least favorite of the rephrased question. This one falls on my ears like a bad song sung off key. It’s really nothing more than a whine.
Are we lost? This child just thinks you’re a moron.
Those dear children know we’re not there yet. If we were there, the car would be parked in a driveway or a parking lot somewhere and we’d all be out moving about.
Depending on your destination, there may be some follow-up questions.
Where did you say we are going? A true indication that their questions about the length of the trip aren’t based on their excitement of arriving at the destination. As a matter of fact, you can probably determine from their tone that they suspect you of dragging them across half the country only to subject them to some place they won’t enjoy in the least.
Who will be there? The dread is setting in now. They’re wondering about Aunt Mable who squeezes their cheeks and leaves smears of red lipstick on their foreheads. And those cousins they only see once every couple of years, whose names they can’t remember. The antagonizing ones they’re expected to be nice to. Their suspicions are growing deeper.
Here’s the thing. They don’t want to know how much farther, or how much looonngerrr. They are simply letting us know they’re tired of this trip. They’re ready for the journey to come to an end.
The truth is, we’re all travelers. We’re all back seat soujourners in this expedition through life. And we all have questions. Just like those darling toddlers in the back seats of our Buicks, our questions reveal some unpleasant things about us. At least they do about me.
I know I’ve asked the same questions of The One who has the answers about my journeys. And I seem to go on a lot of journeys.
I take trips down the road of needing to forgive someone, wondering if God will let me take an exit to another destination.
I travel the highway of frustration caused by uncontrollable circumstances with finances or jobs.
I sludge along the path of damaged relationships that seem beyond repair.
I don’t look to the destination. I don’t really know what the destination is. I only know it’s a place God wants me to be. It’s a place where He’s taking me.
And I ask…
Are we there yet?
I ask because I’m sometimes demanding, and I feel like I deserve to know the whole story about this trip.
I ask because I’m growing frustrated. I’m ready to get out of the car and stretch my legs. I think I’ve earned a few hours in the playland.
I ask because I just feel like whining.
Sure, I’ve had some unpleasant trips. I have friends whose trips I would consider nearly unbearable.
Trips through devastating diseases.
Trips through unfathomable loss.
Trips through a heavy darkness I can’t begin to imagine.
Life is filled with trips. But, here’s the thing about a trip. It is defined as “a traveling from one place to another… a passage or progress from one stage to another”. A trip is an illustration of motion; of movement. We pass through from one place to another.
And we are never alone on our trips.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; (Isaiah 3:1b – 3a)
When I read that passage about unpleasant trips through waters and rivers and fire, I notice that God doesn’t give a reason for the trips. He has a purpose, but the purpose isn’t always for us to know. At least not this side of heaven.
God doesn’t give any clues about the destination of our individual life journeys, but He says He has summoned us to them.
He promises protection. He promises us His presence. And He tells us there will be an end to our life’s various trips.
He won’t plant us permanently in the middle of our unpleasant circumstances. Notice the phrases “pass through” and “walk through”. Those phrases reinforce the fact that there is an end to our life’s trips. There is a destination to which God wants to bring us. It’s a progress from one stage of our spiritual life to another.
When we question God about our trips, He knows what we’re really saying. He understands that sometimes we don’t really care how much farther, or how much looonngerrr. We’re simply ready for our journey to come to an end.