Earlier this week I took a short plane ride down the coast to Southern California. What would have been seven hours of me talking to myself in a car took less than an hour by plane.  While I don’t have a particular fondness for air travel, security lines and small seats in particular, I appreciate the time saved getting from point “A” to point “B”. As inconvenient as the whole thing can be, it is typically better than the alternative.

My favorite part of any trip is coming home. I always look forward to seeing the family and even though I have been through the dreaded curbside airport pick-up too many times to count, I get excited every time I see our car coming my direction.  If you have been through this, you know how the whole thing works. Cars, trucks and buses all fight to get as close to their arriving loved ones as possible.  Miraculously, no one gets hit or run over.  The vehicle comes to a stop and a strange race begins. Luggage is dragged off of the curb and thrown into the car, a hug and kiss are exchanged, and everyone jumps back in trying to get away before the ever vigilant police officer can tell them to move along.  And somehow everyone makes it.

While I was waiting for my family to arrive I watched this scene unfold several times.  It was always about the same with only a few minor adjustments.  And somehow, it all works. Thousands of people a day stop long enough to do what is necessary but then get back in their cars and continue on with their lives.  That is the key to the whole system.  While everyone who arrives to pick up a weary traveler must stop, it is no ones intention to park.  The stop is not the end, it is just a short part of the journey.

Life is very much like this.  We are all on a road with posted signs telling us that it is fine to stop when necessary, but that we should never park.  As we go through life there will be times when the best thing we can do for ourselves, our families, and those around us is to stop long enough to get things in order.  Maybe we need to spend some extra time on a relationship.  Perhaps we have some big decisions to make and just need extra space.  Maybe we simply need to rest because life has gotten just a bit out of control.  When those times come than we must, by all means, stop. It would be harmful not to.  Like leaving the person we were supposed to pick up standing next to their luggage on the curb.

The thing that we must remember though, is that these are just stops along the way. Necessary stops of course but they are not the destination.  Imagine picking someone up from the airport and then refusing to pull away from the curb when they finally get in the car. They are counting on you to understand the difference between a brief stop and a good place to park.

In life, when we decide to park, we have really decided to stop living. Life is a journey of ups and downs, of joy and sorrow, and of exhaustion followed by rest. The journey becomes rewarding when we understand the difference.

We must never quit.  We must keep moving forward while investing in others, making a difference in the community and in our world, and becoming the person that we were created to be. We need to learn when to rest and when to pull away from the curb and continue on down the road. We need to understand that throughout our lives we will come to places where it is fine to stop but never to park.

There are people counting on us to know the difference.

Jeremy Stalnecker is the Executive Director of the Mighty Oaks Foundation which is dedicated to helping America’s military warriors and their families who are suffering from the unseen wounds of combat. While growing up Jeremy’s only goal was to leave home and join the Marine Corps. This dream was finally realized with an active duty commission in 1999 which opened the door to serve as a Marine Infantry Officer during the opening days of the war in Iraq. One month after returning from Iraq, Jeremy entered full-time ministry and eventually accepted a senior pastor role. He later accepted a full-time position with the Mighty Oaks Foundation which brought together his ministry and military experience in a way that allows him to minister to hurting veterans, service members and their families. Along with his wife and their four children, Jeremy works to reach the hurting and provide healing found in Christ.

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