Years ago I read a story about a married couple who had been married more than three decades. That in and of itself is not that unusual (well, maybe it is in our day and time), but their story fascinated me. They had met 35 years before, while both were vacationing overseas in Japan with friends. As fate would have it, each of them took guided tours of the city with separate groups, and both groups ended up touring the same Japanese flower shop at exactly the same time. There the man accidentally bumped into the woman as he was maneuvering through the crowd. He politely apologized and, after a brief moment of casual conversation, they both went their separate ways.
A short time later the man left the flower shop with his tour group as they moved on to their next destination. On a whim, however, he suddenly decided to break away from the group and return to the flower shop to ask the woman out for a date later that evening. She accepted and, as they say, the rest is history.
What are the odds? What are the chances of two people vacationing in the same country at the same time, both thousands of miles from home, somehow accidentally bumping into each other at a random flower shop? Not only that, but think about how different their lives might have been or would have been if the man had decided to stay with his group rather than returning to the flower shop to ask her out. Those few moments changed their lives forever.
So what can we learn? We learn that, in spite of our best efforts to plan and control every aspect of our lives, the journey of life itself is still — and will always be — wildly unpredictable.
A single moment — one choice, one conversation, an unexpected encounter, a simple decision — can change our lives forever. Good or bad, big or small, these are the moments that make us who we are and determine how we live on our journey. As a result, each one is to be treasured.
Robert Hastings once wrote a poem titled “The Station” which has long been one of my favorites. It offers a wonderful perspective on life. I offer a redacted version to you now.
“Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out of the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways; of children waving at a crossing; of cattle grazing on a distant hillside; city skylines and village halls.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day, at a certain hour we will pull into the Station. Bands will be playing and flags will be waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the many pieces of our life will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.
How restlessly we pace the aisles … waiting … waiting … waiting … for The Station. When we reach the station that will be it, we cry. ‘When I am 18 …When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz ... When I put the last kid through college … When I pay off the mortgage … When I get a promotion … When I reach the age of retirement …Then I shall live happily ever after.”
But sooner or later we must realize that there is no station; no one place to arrive once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a myth.
“The true joy of life is the trip.” Truer words have never been spoken. Life is a journey, not a destination. It will always be filled with ups and downs, and everything in between. There is no station at which we ultimately arrive until that day comes when we are with the Lord forever. Rather life is a million little moments — joys and sorrows, conversations and thoughts, experiences and relationships — all of which somehow come together in a single journey to make us who we are.
So, my advice — enjoy the ride and celebrate your journey!!!
The Rev. Stephen J. King is pastor of Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church Ave., Bradenton Beach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Services are at 9:30 a.m. Sundays. 941-779-1912.