Interstate 40 is a straight shot out of Tennessee. It spits you out in the mountains of North Carolina where you dribble down to Asheville, switch to I-26, and slide on down to the foothills of South Carolina. I drove that familiar path last week as the sun set behind me. I was trying to make up distance and trying to make up time. The home that is my wife and sons was on the other side.
It's 356 miles from where I live in Nashville to where I used to live in Spartanburg. Driving solo between the two, it doesn't feel that long. But there are times when I can feel every inch of the distance. That has been difficult; more so than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong. I knew it would be tough. When you're not with your wife/best friend of 11 years and the two souls that you swore you'd protect with everything, the absence is going to weigh on you. Yet that distance is a load to bear. When I left to go back to Nashville and my youngest whimpered, "I'm going to miss you," it darn near destroyed me.
But we're going to be okay. When you truly love someone, time and distance can be overcome. They are massive obstacles to conquer and we have no desire to be apart for this long ever again, but those forces can be managed. It takes effort and intentionality. It takes a hope and belief that the present struggles are worth it in the long run. And it takes love for each other.
As I drove those 356 miles to and from my family this past week, I reflected on that concept of distance. Like many people, I'm still sorting out what this last year has revealed about the deep divisions that exist within our communities, churches, and country. The distance between how some people see the world can make the journey across three states seem like a trip across the street.
This is probably naive, but I wonder if the things that have held my family together in spite of the distance can point some way forward on a larger scale. The only way that a healthy relationship can survive the chasm is if both sides work on it. Even as I write that, I see the road is littered with potholes and hairpin turns. It's not that simple and in some instances, the illustration doesn't hold up. A minority shouldn't have to try to repair the relationship with someone who espouses racist ideologies. There are people who actively want to harm or eradicate those who are different. People and policies that harm others should not be given an inch. So dealing with that element is another road altogether.
But for people that genuinely want the good for everyone, and not just a concept of "everyone" that looks like you, in a community or a church or this country can close the distance. It takes effort, intentionality, hope, and belief that the struggle of this partnership is worth it. In the great tradition of Christian ethics, it takes love put into action.
If people are hurting, reach out and listen. If someone disagrees with you, learn about them rather than seeking to demolish them. There will be compromises and points where you agree to disagree, but the one thing we don't budge on is our shared humanity; the idea that we are all created in God's image. I feel naive as I write this. It's an easy thing about which to be cynical. But I'm going to hope and try to put that hope into action.