John Halvorsen -
It was New Years Eve of 1998, and I was about to finish a 1200-mile prayer walk through the heart of America from the Canadian border in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of the route was along US Highway 61, “The Great River Road,” which parallels the Mississippi River.
Having completed long expeditions in the past, I was well aware of the goal-oriented mindset that is needed to carry you through the trying experiences to the prize of completion at the end. Successfully crossing the finish line is the whole purpose of the long, arduous experience, and one that keeps you going during any difficulties that might arise along the way.
Difficulties? Yes. Along with all of the wonderful times, there had been some difficulties. For many of those miles of walking US 61, I had wrestled with a pulled tendon in my left foot and sore toes. It wasn’t until I reached St Louis, Missouri, about 800 miles into the trip, that I could take a step without some type of foot pain.
Then I had walked countless miles in rain and near freezing temperatures. As it was winter, and the daylight hours were few, for many of those very cold miles I was hiking the highway in the dark. I had been mistaken for a vagabond or a criminal on several occasions, and stopped by the police multiple times. Once they even thought that I was a dangerous prison escapee. Through every trial that I went through, my commitment to complete the expedition and get to the end of Highway 61 was the carrot that kept me going, mile after mile.
For months, my hopes, thoughts and plans had totally been set on a target to be reached in the future, and now that day was here! I had followed Highway 61 on foot from Minnesota all the way to Louisiana! I dodged through the busy traffic into downtown New Orleans, in my haste almost getting hit by a car while crossing an intersection. Excitement was building. Triumph was in my heart. The goal was about to be attained!
And then we saw it. It had taken months of walking to arrive at that spot. The last U.S. Highway 61 sign indicating our journey’s end was before us and it simply said, “End 61.”
End 61? I thought. Shouldn’t there be a parade and balloons and a brass band and a cheering, ecstatic crowd? This is the reward for my commitment to this long, exhausting, difficult journey? Just “End 61?”
How anticlimactic it all felt at that moment. How empty.
I’ve thought about this experience often in the years that have followed and have decided that I never again want to miss the joy of living in the NOW by being so focused on a future goal. During the journey, I’m not going to lose sight of today. Always living for the future, or frequently looking back at the past, can cause us to miss out on the amazing delights of the present, and the marvels that God has placed right in front of us today. At the end of each journey, I never want to have reason to look back with regret that I missed a single moment that was offered to me.
I invite you to join me in this commitment, and as each day unfolds, let us revel in the current. Let us take joy in the blessing of NOW!