Traveling Mercies

When I was a kid there was a prayer we prayed every time we set out on a trip, which was often. My childhood was marked by travel and transition so you can know that we prayed this prayer frequently. Every trip was prefaced with a prayer that included a little request for “traveling mercies”.

Two weeks ago I was on my way to Thailand. As I buckled my seatbelt, and ensured my seat back was in its upright position and my tray table was closed and locked, my carry-on stowed under the seat in front of me, this prayer came to me. The words, “traveling mercies”, surfaced in my prayer. I smiled at the habituated prayer that had come to me from the faraway places of my mind but then I began to muse about its meaning.

Certainly this is a prayer for safety. It’s a prayer for protection. Travel has its risks. I think it might also be a plea for ease. Heaven knows travel can be rigorous and exhausting.

In the Dallas airport, on my first brief lay over, I met three Bangladeshis in the magazine kiosk who spoke Hindi. I sat next to a Pakistani woman explaining to her husband, left behind and suddenly hungry, how to make chicken curry in the pressure cooker. I watched two little girls playing with each other, in and out and around their daddy’s legs. In Houston across the darkened departure lounge I caught sight of a little girl’s mime show for her parents when she thought no one else was watching. Sitting just across from me two bedraggled parents kept trying to hide their toddler’s pacifier. The dad, with a wink at me, slid it behind his back to his wife, and then quietly explained that they didn’t want him to fall asleep until they were on board. I smiled understandably. The little person was agitated and outspoken about it! He fussed and fretted. He wanted his pacifier. When the dad left to use the restroom, the mom sheepishly smiled at me, pulled it out from her bag and I got another conspiratorial wink. That time I burst out laughing.

A well-wishing text message from a friend, a kind word from a fellow passenger as we went through security, a timely bus to take me to the next terminal, a good cup of coffee, a bird flying through the terminal to the delight of passengers old and young, a pleasant seatmate, earplugs, a kind flight attendant these are all mercies. When a connection is made, luggage is found, your debit card works; when you happen upon mango sticky rice in the airport food court, when you find the bus that promises to take you south to Dolphin Bay, when you manage to sleep some, when there’s someone to meet you with a taxi at the other end—these are all undeserved delights. This is the stuff of traveling mercies.

Today we are embarking on a collective journey. The destination is unknown. We’re being told that we’re heading in one direction, but I for one, don’t trust the man in the cockpit. There aren’t enough seat belts to go around. I’m nervous and more than a little anxious. Not all the passengers understand the situation. There is bickering and battling in the economy seats. Business class and First Class have seemingly inserted their earplugs and put on their eye patches. Those seated in emergency exit rows don’t know what they’re doing, some of them have admitted such but they’re still being asked to sit there. Already I’m feeling nauseous from motion sickness and really we haven’t started moving yet. Turbulence is ahead. It’s going to be a long flight.

I woke up this morning in a dense fog. It was dark outside and I wondered if the sun would shine today. Knowing the trip ahead, I breathed in and out, and prayed for traveling mercies.

Lord, protect us, deliver us, bring us safely to the other side. We ask humbly for traveling mercies. Let us see you at work. Give us eyes to recognize the little gifts.

Help us to bravely stand up for those whose travel documents are in question.

Give us grace to serve our fellow passengers. Help us to be nice to each other. Grant us strength to do all the good we can en route.

When the ride gets turbulent, when oxygen masks dangle in front of us, reassure us of your nearness and help us to breath. Thank you that you travel with us. Thank you that you promise to meet us at baggage claim. Thank you for the hope of our Final Destination.

But until then, we ask for your traveling mercies.

Christ in your mercy, hear our prayer.

5 thoughts on “Traveling Mercies

  1. I read this post in a completely different light today. I read it for my friend Terry who reached her final destination today. 43 short years on this earth during which time she left a positive mark on so many people.

    What is happening in Washington is from this world. We had 8 years that many people in this country did not agree with. 4 more is coming that many more will not agree with. In the end we are all a blend of people and cultures, rich and poor, living together under God’s skies.

    May we all reach our final destiny with pride, dignity and knowing we made the best out of this one life God bestowed upon us.

    Marilyn, thanks for touching so many people in your journey,
    Love,
    Petra

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  2. Today I walked across campus while the page was turning, not listening to the TV or the streaming internet videos, but knowing what was happening. I remembered the words on the last page of _Cry, the Beloved Country_.

    I have read Alan Paton’s classic novel, _Cry, the Beloved Country_, once, and could not bear to read it again. But I checked it out today so I could see those last words again. Stephen Kumalo cannot be present at his son’s execution but he knows that it is happening.

    “He looked out of his clouded eyes at the faint steady lightening in the east. But he calmed himself, and took out the heavy maize cakes and the tea, and put them upon a stone. And he gave thanks, and broke the cakes and ate them, and drank of the tea. Then he gave himself over to deep and earnest prayer, and after each petition he raised his eyes and looked to the east. And the east lightened and lightened, till he knew that the time was not far off. And when he expected it, he rose to his feet and took off his hat and laid it down on the earth, and clasped his hands before him. And while he stood there the sun rose in the east.

    Yes, it is the dawn that has come. The titihoya wakes from sleep, and goes about its work of forlorn crying. The sun tips with light the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqualand. The great valley of the Umzimkulu is still in darkness, but the light will come there. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.”

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  3. Oh Robyn, this is THE most beautiful thing I have read about the transition our country is currently in. Thank you for this prayer that I will keep praying for others, for bringing our eyes to what really matters in the midst of all of this – our fellow passengers.

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