Montana? or Kansas? Or both?

ImageThe other morning as I was out on the morning dog-walk, going down one of the streets we usually travel, I noticed a car parked on the curb. There was nothing terribly strange about the car… it was a blue, late model something-or-other sedan.

More precisely, what I noticed was the car’s license plate. It was from Montana. And for some reason as I passed this car I started weaving a story about the car and its owners and their journey. (See… this is the kind of thing I am prone to do on the mornings when my wife goes to her exercise class and I have to walk the dogs by myself. Fortunately it only happens a couple of times a week.)

Mainly I thought about the dramatic change of scenery for a person going from Montana to Kansas. I have driven across Montana a couple of times and while there are some flat, rather characterless stretches along the way, there are also a lot of striking, attention-grabbing sections in the western half of the state. There are mountain passes that wind and twist, taking you along roaring riverbanks, affording scary glimpses down into deep canyons on either side of the road. The famous “big sky” held up by tall pine trees, dotted with rich, fluffy white clouds. All in all it is quite a beautiful and scenic part of the country.

So as I was thinking those people from Montana and their blue car I wondered, “After living in that kind of area, do they have the ability to see beauty in a place like Kansas? Or do they instead look at the gentle rollingness of the Flint Hills or the endless stretches of gently waving wheat along I-70 and sneer at each other and say, ‘How boring! Who would EVER want to live HERE?!!’”

And so then I felt sorry for those blue car Montana people and their make-believe snap judgments. Because in jumping to their hasty conclusions (as I imagined), they effectively walled themselves off from ever discovering some of the real hidden jewels I have found here in the Sunflower State, just by taking a closer look.

So, sadly, if they somehow chose to limit their definition of “beauty” to things that look like mountains and brooks and forests, (and similar picture postcard scenes), those blue car Montanans just missed out! They missed out on being able to see beauty in its more subtle forms… beauty you have to work at a little in order to appreciate.

And then I realized that this is not all that different from the way I live my life at times. You see, I have no problem standing in awe of the BIG moments and mountaintop experiences and ooo-ing and ahhh-ing appropriately. I mean, I’m not dense after all! But how good am I at stopping to dig beneath the surface a little? How often do I refuse to take things at their immediate, seemingly non-dynamic face value? Do I have the capacity to challenge myself to see what I might otherwise be missing… either with people or situations?

Sad to say, not nearly often enough.

Because when you get right down to it, there are a whole lot more “Kansas” experiences in our lives than “Montana” experiences, aren’t there? By that I mean is a lot more “dig below the surface to find it” beauty than “stand up and smack you in the face” beauty we will ever encounter.

We can all appreciate the thrill and energy of being young and invincible, but can we also find the beauty in life when we slow down and age and tire out a little more easily? It is not at all hard to thrill to the rush of the “outward” adventures of going to the movies, going on vacations, water-skiing, mountain-biking, and playing golf, but can we also learn to enjoy the “inward” adventures of engaging the spiritual journeys God calls us to be on?

Yes, Montana is great. But so is Kansas. Let’s each ask God to help us love both.

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