Between November 2018 and February 2019, my husband spent nearly 40 days in Denver. This made for way too many nights alone, and way too many days of being the only one responsible for the dog. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to spend the first eight days of 2019 with him, flying out on New Year’s Day to visit a state I’d always wanted to visit.
Besides going to bed, waking up, catching a Colorado Avalanche game one evening, and eating breakfast and dinner together, we didn’t really see each other that much during the day. Andrew went off to work after breakfast, and I was free to do whatever I wanted, within the self-set parameters of no more than three hours in the car (round-trip) and no activities that would be incredibly stupid for a still-nauseous 17-weeks-pregnant woman to do alone. These parameters were similar to the parameters I set for myself when I accompanied my husband to Germany for work last year—no more than three hours round-trip on the train and no activities that would be incredibly stupid for an unaccompanied American woman to do alone.
Interestingly, my solo-travel experiences in both Germany and Colorado left me feeling bummed. The first days of each were good—Nuremburg was beautiful and rich with history, and the Garden of the Gods was full of the most incredible works of our God that I had ever seen. But I was sad to be experiencing these things alone. I was able to make small talk with people in Colorado Springs, helping each other with pictures. In Germany, though, the language barrier was rather alienating, and when I did find Americans, they didn’t seem to appreciate my excitement. (Weird.)
The subsequent days I went out alone on both trips were pretty miserable. I wanted to take advantage of the time I had to see new places, but I almost had to force myself to leave the hotel. Being alone by myself was one thing—that’s what books are for, after all—but being alone in public hurt me. The rain in Heidelberg and the bear warning signs on an easy trail in the Rockies were too much to handle without support.
The most notable part of my solo-travel experiences both stateside and in Europe, though, were the completely underwhelming feelings I felt. Like I said, Nuremburg and the Garden of the Gods were awesome, but they didn’t fulfill me. I fancy myself a world traveler—I’d like to see as much of the world as I possibly can. But when I see and experience new places, I don’t get gratification from the experience like I think I should.
Isn’t that the way idolization always presents itself? As my pastor often says, “Sin always over-promises and under-delivers.”
I don’t think I really idolized visiting Colorado or exploring Germany, but the underwhelming feelings caused me to stop and reflect. There must have been something I was trying to get from these experiences, something I thought they could give me but ultimately couldn’t. Why did I think I could receive satisfaction from anything other than God Himself? Ah, that’s the sin.
At the Garden of the Gods, as much as I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but keep saying to myself, “Yeah, this is cool and all, but the One who made these structures is so much cooler” and “Yeah, cool, but ultimately meh” and “Yeah, cool, but what is the most important thing I could be doing with my time once our baby arrives? In the grand scheme of things? I think God cares about that more than He does these soulless rocks he created.”
(I know, that last one was random, but it’s true to my thoughts that day.)
Because honestly, as cool as these things on Earth are, and as cool as Earth is in general, with all the amazing places to visit and experience, the truth is that we are the closest to hell we will ever be. What is to come for those who believe is infinitely greater than the world as we know it.
The inverse is true for those who don’t believe: this place is the closest to heaven non-believers will ever be. That’s alarming. (And if it’s not alarming to you, believer, check yourself; it should be.) God presents Himself here—we are surrounded by His creation. His people worship Him. His Word is the best-selling book of all time. But in hell, His presence will disappear. Hell is eternal separation from Him, full of agony and despair.
What matters most is making the best use of our time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16, paraphrased). That doesn’t mean completely forsaking travel or other seemingly meaningless pleasures in life, but it does mean doing everything with the intention of bringing glory to God and sharing the Gospel with the world.
I loved Colorado (and Germany), and I’m thankful for my solo-travel (and non-solo-travel) experiences I’ve had around the world, but I’m mostly thankful for the perspective it has allowed me to uncover. What is really important in life?
As a very wise wizard once said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
So how will you use your time?