Americans, says James K.A. Smith, idealize the open road, the open road seems to be the pinnacle of freedom: detachment from previous communities; independence, the ability to drive on our own without a caravan; and autonomy—the ability to reinvent ourselves as a lonely traveler. But, Smith points out, this is an illusion. Roads are always mapped out, if not by us, then by others. If we submit ourselves to them, we’ve submitted ourselves to a version of ourselves we haven’t chosen, that someone else has.
But I think the process of Christian discipleship is less a resistance to the road, and more of a rediscovery of the road’s purpose. We are not the hippies hitchhiking across Route 66, we are not beat poets or vagabonds. We are restless hearts, surely. But our restlessness is fuel to speed us to a destination. The opposite of wandering may be rooting, but Christians are called to pilgrimage—a third way. A journeying and a seeking.
Life is lived in the tension between the freedom from and the freedom to. We all feel the yearning for stable scaffolding and a yearning for an unimpeded horizon.
We are all yearning to make a name for ourselves, crafting a name that represents who and what we are, that we have chosen, we have built, that is ours. And yet, we also discover that being named without our choosing, being a site of receiving, is a sign of being loved.