Spiritual Practice


Sally Chambers

For our annual back-to-school retreat, we were staying at a camp in southeast Tennessee. For some reason, our afternoon plans had changed; and I was leading a six-vehicle caravan to Fall Creek Falls State Park so the group could go swimming. Everyone had agreed that the falls, the scenery, and the swimming hole would be well worth the drive, until we accidently took the “scenic route” through the park, trying to make our way to the swimming hole. The 50-minute drive ended up being well over an hour. The ride through the park took another chunk of our afternoon. By the time we found the swimming hole, the return trip was not far off. Yet, splashing in the water, even for a little while, perked everyone up; and from what I could tell, we left happy campers.

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Later that evening, I called the community together to reflect on our day. I asked, “What did you notice this afternoon on our journey to and from the falls?” About half the group responded with frustration about making wrong turns, going in circles, and not arriving at the swimming hole sooner. The other half responded with references to beauty, vistas, cliffs, trees, and deer.

I was fascinated by the divergence in their responses. Half the group had been so focused on where we were going that they had missed the journey. They missed the beauty, the cliffs, the trees, the wildlife, the vistas, and the joy of being together. Their frustration at not arriving sooner had blinded them to the world around them.

I wonder if the purpose of destinations is simply to get us on the journey. In my mind, the journey, not the destination, is important; how we travel means more than where we’re going. Whether we’re traveling to school, work, or Grandma’s house, whether we are walking, driving, or flying, whether the distance is four or four hundred miles, the journey is what matters.

pilgrims way detourJesus was always on the go, moving from town to town. When you’re reading the Gospel stories, pay attention to the phrases such as these: “When they were on the way to . . .” or “As they were traveling from . . .” In between towns, Jesus was always asking his community, “What do you notice?” And he was teaching and showing his friends what to look for on the way.

Even when Jesus turned toward Jerusalem and the cross, he didn’t speed up and make a beeline straight for Calvary. He was still on a journey—stopping, noticing, teaching, showing, healing, caring. He knew that on the way to our destination we need the journey and all the stops along the way—even the wrong turns, scenic drives, photo opportunities, U-turns, and lost directions.

Consider this: Would you have been part of the group that was frustrated with the journey through Fall Creek Falls State Park, or would you have noticed along the way the trees and cliffs in all their beauty and grandeur? Do you allow God to interrupt your itinerary to show you something that matters? Do you live life at a hundred miles per hour, blurring together the amazing things you pass each day? Take time this week to notice the journey.


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Take a journey. Walk, drive, or ride a bike. Travel alone or with someone else. Where you go doesn’t matter. Simply pay attention to what you notice along the way. Enjoy the journey.

(NOTE: In the magazine, this article is missing a few lines—our apologies! Here is the complete article.)


Sally Chambers lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and loves to make journeys near and far. She enjoys being a passenger so that she can look out the window and notice everything on the way.

—from devozine (March/April 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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