After all, a family car is not just a car. It is a whole culture… The car (is) much like a living room with large windows on street level or the front yard. The Guardian, November 22, 2013
“No Adventure in It?”
Have you ever considered how much time we truly spend in transit, moving from one place to another in a vehicle? I recall from my college writing courses the rule to never show your characters traveling. That is, if they have to take a plane, train or automobile, just say they did it and move to the next scene because “travel is boring, and there’s no adventure in it.”
But I’ve come to learn that while this rule sometimes applies to fiction, real life is quite different. Many times, the trip is the true adventure.
Even as you race about this summer to visit relatives, magically-themed kingdoms or wide-open spaces, don’t forget that the real excursion lies in getting to know those who take the trip with you a little better.
Trapped at 75 mph
About a year ago, my wife and I were driving to visit family. We were listening to a Paul David Tripp sermon, and there was a collective sense that we were both being affected by what we were hearing. But in no way was I going to voice that.
That didn’t stop my wife. She reached over halfway through the sermon and, to my horror, powered down all audio.
“What do you think about that?” she said.
“I think I’d like to just keep listening and not answer your question,” I thought.
Rude, I know. But that’s what flesh does when it’s confronted. I knew that talking about the issue Tripp was addressing would quickly reveal the conviction I was feeling in my own heart. Maybe my sleeping son in the back seat would wake up and rescue me with a cry for a pit stop.
But he just kept sleeping, and I was backed into a corner at 75 miles per hour. I gave in and lurched into the conversation. I slowly let down my guard, and there we were, having a conversation about our deepest senses of failure and victory. We sat facing the road, not unlike two old friends sitting at a bar, facing forward while facing one another’s true selves.
On that drive, the Lord worked within our hearts to encourage, challenge and unite. One of the most memorable moments was when we took a suggestion from the sermon, and each of us came up with five words to describe the other. It was a time of bared personalities that strengthened our bond even more as husband and wife.
And though that trip ended, our adventures together have not. Our family culture was altered that day. I was changed. Although our first instinct is to cocoon into the four-inch world of a screen or vanish between two headphones, I now regard a car trip as a sacred space for conversation.
Taking advantage of this sacred space may require a more-than-average bravery. Be prepared for awkward silences, temptations to retreat to the digital world or desperate wishes to be anywhere but there.
Gently hold your foot on the accelerator of conversation. Continue to ask open-ended questions. Consider using some of the resources below to get the conversation going. Embrace the fact that cars can be the perfect place to have difficult conversations. As a recent article in The Guardian has noted:
Cars provide a very particular transitional and temporary form of intimacy, which can help some people to open up and talk about otherwise tricky subjects. The setting is usually warm and containing—almost womb-like—and the environment feels familiar, all things that are great facilitators for conversation. The ease with which some people will open up in the car may also relate to the length of the journey—longer trips tend to be more conducive to in-depths chats—and to the length of the relationship.
Car trips are fascinating microcosms for conversations that affect and reinforce our shared story as a family. Perhaps this summer’s travel time holds for you a conversation that will change or clarify your own life’s adventure. But you won’t have it if you don’t turn down the volume or disconnect the digital movie playing in the back seat. Use the sacred space of a road trip to explore and deepen your own shared story with the people who matter most.