Long distance driving. How good is it, when you have good company! Recently I went on three long trips to Hunter, Forbes and Canberra. Driving is tiring. It requires a lot of concentration, attention and a fair bit of skill. It is risky business. One could easily fall asleep or get distracted and then the rest is history.
While undertaking these road trips, for ministry reasons, I couldn't help but notice the signs on the road reminding me and other drivers to “Stop. Revive. Survive”. This is a public campaign run in Australia urging the thousands of holidaying motorists to take it easy on the roads when driving long distance recommending that you break up your drive every 2 hours by taking a short break.
I couldn't help but reflect on this motto, and how relevant it is for life in general. How true it is that in our lives we need to stop and revive in order to survive. Life on the highway can leave us physically spent. It leads us to forget that we even have a spiritual life. It leads us to live withOUT and not withIN.
So I guess it is fair to ask, why do we need to stop? Why can't we keep going, keep serving, keep partying? What is wrong with a 24/7 lifestyle? What's wrong with being always switched on and available? And more importantly when do I know I need to stop, what are the early signs?
These are many questions that I continue to struggle with. I had anxiety in my younger days because I never knew when to stop. I began helping in my local church and before I knew it, I was immersed in pastoral work. I joined every group possible, attended every event, partied, studied, worked and was in relationships. I had time for everyone. I answered every phone call and helped every person in sight. I was running away from my pain. I just did not know how to stop, until eventually I was burnt out. This is the result of not stopping. I was chocking. Anxiety overwhelmed me.
On the road they say, you must watch for early signs BUT being me I ignored them. The greatest of these were my inability to sleep at night and even worse, I became a Gold member of the local hospital and the medical centre. My health began to deteriorate. I was a sick boy and I had a reputation for it. I was simply spent, physically, emotionally and spiritually. My body and soul was yelling "Stop. Just stop!"
Dare I say I was living on the OUTside. I was at church but I rarely prayed, I was dying on the inside and I needed to be revived! I needed to be still and know God. I needed to believe in the Sabbath, the day of rest.
When you’re driving, you can't help but notice the rest areas which according to road authorities “allow drivers to park safely, walk around and refresh themselves before continuing their journey". They are clearly signposted.
Just read this again, does it not apply to life! Can we not say that when we are burnt out spiritually or physically, we need to refresh ourselves? What we actually need is a revival of our spiritual life! To realise God’s grace and merciful love. His affirmation that we are loved just as we are. Just as we are.
Activism, dare I say is the symptom of a partly sick society. A society that is hell spent on competitiveness and results. Even, social justice, the noblest cause and the mission of every Christian, has been often used to mask, running away and refusing to stop and be revived by God’s grace.
Here the signs on the spiritual road are clear. We have to spend time in SILENCE, prayer and meditation. I find the ancient practice of Lectio Divina so important for my life. I say we have to, not out of some obligation but out of need. We need to be refreshed. Mass is also reviving and so are the sacraments. Thomas Aquinas taught that sacraments cause grace. They are like those Vitamin Tablets that one takes to stay refreshed, they are special moments of grace and a sign of God’s love.
Retreats are also great opportunities for revival as a community. Young adult faith communities, holidays, free weekends, cinemas, theatre, music, sports and the list goes on.
“I came that you may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). God wants us to survive, to thrive, to live our humanity to the fullest. God is love and love always wants the best for the other.
This means that after stopping and reviving, one can go back and survive the daily routine of life. They may after being revived wish to change some things. But for most of us, we go back to daily life.
But this is okay. Isn't this what the incarnation is about? That as Richard Rohr says that "God comes to us disguised as life". That Christ became man so in him and through him we are transformed and revived. Thus we find a new way of surviving wherever God has called us. A more spiritual way of being.
I can't wait for the next road trip. But dare I say I will forget to stop, revive and survive. It will be the same in the road trip of life. I know I will forget to stop, I will fall into the temptation of running the tank until empty.
But God is merciful and he will remind me gently, in his own way to Stop. Revive. Survive. So that more than just survive, I will thrive, In Him.
Nehme is a former student of a Marist Primary School in Mount-Lebanon. He grew up in the war and spent a considerable part of his childhood adjusting to the sound of bombs, sometimes taking refuge in a shelter in the basement of his building. He migrated to Australia, studied Commerce at Sydney Uni and later chose to become a Teacher. He enjoys reading; playing and watching sport. He is a St George Dragons supporter and enjoys watching the boring game of Cricket. Nehme has a passion for the Gospel and loves connecting with young people. He is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Theology and is the National Coordinator for Marist Youth Ministry.