This nostalgic phrase in the American language came into common usage when cars became an accepted mode of transportation in this country. Its been so much a part of my life, it probably made the top-ten list of all-time worst questions to hear from anyone in the passenger seat. There are emojis, memes, gifs, and even a movie made by the same title. These four words, apparently the perpetual question, make frequent appearances in cartoons, books, and yes, even church newsletter articles.
The question implies that the real excitement happens at the journey’s end. In other words, the question is focused exclusively on the destination. It conveys impatience, fatigue, and an all too common tendency to project oneself into the future. These four words have even found their way into business communications as collaborators working on a project ask the question to discover if the goal of the project is achieved. Once again, the focus is on results and not the process that yields the results.
Let us take a moment and reflect on the dreaded phrase that we all love to hate. Well, hate is probably too strong of a word, perhaps dislike strongly might be a better way of speaking. The phrase itself has a place in our collective memory. I did extensive research to discover the origins of the phrase and when it first came into widespread use. The query even stumped Google. Preposterous, unthinkable, yet altogether true. As an informed citizen and occasionally frazzled parent, I wonder if that might not be why Google began to dabble in self-driving cars all the way back to 2009.
One might go so far as to wonder how many of Waymo’s (Google rebrand) fleet of 600 self-driving cars (mostly in Phoenix) have artificial intelligence that responds to that question. Imagine getting on board, setting the destination, putting on a pair of noise-canceling headphones, leaving technology to drive the car, and answer the question. I can tell you that Penny and I have watched this emerging technology closely. Soon this may be the answer to a lot of visually challenged persons being able to live more independent lives.
Right about now, you are wondering how we began with an image of Bart Simpson in the back of the Homer-mobile to self-driving cars? It is part of the way my mind works. I’m a problem solver; if there is an issue to be dealt with, then a solution must be out there somewhere. And I need to find it. There’s a little bit of that in all of us.
If you take the time to be observant, you can almost hear this question in the biblical narrative. Sara must have asked this of Abram several times on their journey from Ur. How many Jewish kids asked their parents that question during the Exodus? In Acts chapter one, the apostles essentially ask this question of the resurrected Christ. He responds like a patient parent, reminding them they are to wait for the Holy Spirit.
Speaking solely for myself, it feels like we’ve traveled for some time toward a post-COVID world. The journey is tedious, and we want so much to be able to get out of the car and stretch our legs in a familiar place. We long for a world with hugs, handshakes, and unfettered human interaction.
Unfortunately, the church can’t call for a ride from
Waymo, tell the car where we want to go, and go to sleep until we get there. It
may feel like wandering in the wilderness, but it is a part of our Christian
experience. One day we will arrive, but let us not forget to be fully
present on our journey. To do otherwise is to miss out on formative
opportunities that will shape us as human beings and as followers of Jesus
Christ. The next time you are tempted to ask “the question,” ease back in the
seat, take a look out the window and remember life is about the journey, not
just the destination.