Dear Family of St John’s

I love doing road trips. Whenever my husband and I can manage a few days away, even one night is enough, we love to head off and explore.

He drives, and I take my role as passenger very seriously. The passenger has an important job to do. You must make sure the driver is awake and alert. To do this, you must feed the driver appropriate snacks and drinks. Nothing messy, or too sugary.

I check the temperature of the coffee and pass it over when it’s drinking temperature. I make sure that the stock of “Wilson’s XXX Extra Strong Peppermint Flavoured” mints is sufficient – my husband is addicted to them!

The passenger is also responsible for ensuring that the music choice is appropriate. You must encourage the occasional sing-along for your favourite songs. And, when necessary, change to an interesting podcast.

You need to engage in interesting conversation. I often Google places we’re driving through and relate some of the history or interesting facts about the area we’re in. This can lead us down a rabbit-hole of Google searches.

So, you can see, the passenger’s role is really important, and I’ve always taken my job seriously. My skills as passenger were put to the extreme test last year when we had to drive to Cape Town and back in the same day. We had a few hours in Cape Town for a meeting, and then came straight back again. We did it in 20 hrs.

I did some of the driving on this trip, but my husband is the primary driver. He’s far more relaxed than I am. Heavy traffic and overtaking trucks don’t cause him stress like it does for me. However, I wouldn’t recommend a trip like that!

While I was on leave earlier in January, we had the opportunity to take another road trip. It was a last-minute decision. I think those are sometimes the best trips. My mom-in-law- had driven down from Johannesburg for the Christmas holidays, and due to an injury wasn’t able to drive back on her own. After much discussion our plans evolved to my husband driving her back in her own car and I would driver our car up to Johannesburg. We would then do a road trip home together. (Our road trip ended up covering 4500km in 10 days, coming home via Mozambique! I’ll tell you about it some other time.)

Now, I mentioned that I’m always the secondary driver on all these trips we do.

I mentioned that I’m not the most relaxed long-distance driver. I’ve also never driven that distance (PE-JHB) on my own. So, I prepped my cooler bags with all my snacks – things I could nibble on while driving and not having a passenger to pass items to me. I lined up some Spotify playlists with songs I was sure would keep me awake. I had a few podcasts ready to go if I wanted a change. And I set off!

All was good until just after Colesberg. I’d had a fair amount of caffeine, my music was really loud, the aircon blasting icy-cold air at me, and I could still feel my concentration starting to drift. Something needed to change. My solution was Michael McIntryre. He’s a comedian and his shows always make me laugh. Listening to him allowed me to engage in a different way and my concentration levels were far better for driving.

I realised during this drive how important that two-way interaction was. I was listening to music that was fabulous, but it wasn’t holding my attention. I needed something I could respond to and engage with.

Our relationship with God is like that too. It’s not enough to just read our Bible, sing worship songs, talk to God. We need to allow Him to respond. We need to listen to Him and react. We need to have a relationship with Him that we can engage in fully. Otherwise, our concentration will start to drift.

This isn’t a topic that’s new to us. We often hear that we need to listen for God’s voice and not just talk AT Him. But, I know that I need reminders. Perhaps you do too.

Hearing God is something that happens differently for each of us, and can vary in different situations. Reading Scripture and asking God to reveal His heart and voice in what you’re reading is one key way of hearing Him.

Another way that I find works really well for me, is in serving others. I think it’s because we’re not meant to exist in isolation. God has created us to be a people of community and relationships. And so, when I serve someone else God often speaks to me through the work I’m doing or through the person themselves. Have you experienced this?

These interactions with God keep us concentrating on Him, they help us stay on the road and not drift off course. If you’re feeling like you’re drifting a little at the moment, perhaps you need to think about how you’re serving God. Maybe there is an area you could become involved in and allow Him to speak to you through the work you are doing.

With love

Your friend and rector,