Traveling Mercies

When I was a boy, there were Sunday night services at the First Baptist Church of Conley, GA.  When a service would finally end—too late to see the Wonderful World of Disney or to catch the end of the Ed Sullivan show—our pastor would call on one of our deacons to pray the benediction.  Almost always, that deacon would pray something like: “Lord as we get in our cars and drive to our homes, keep us safe and give us traveling mercies.” 

We also prayed for traveling mercies for visiting missionaries who had been home on furlough and were soon to return to Africa and for youth who were leaving on choir tour in dangerous places like New Orleans, which was at least in the south, or in New York, which seemed more dangerous than Africa, because there were no grits and people there drank Pepsi products instead of Coke. 

“Traveling mercies.”  It’s such a tender phrase: mercy for the journey and grace for the going.  When we pray for traveling mercies, we are, naturally enough, asking for safety—no accidents, no illnesses, no disasters, and no dangers we can’t handle. 

But, one of life’s most disillusioning and then saving lessons is that there is no final safety: accidents happen, illnesses come, disasters strike, and overwhelming dangers arise. 

Now, when I pray for traveling mercies, I am not really expecting safety.  Instead, I seek security for the spirit, shelter for the soul, and refuge for the heart.  Traveling mercies don’t prevent brokenness; they heal, even when they do not cure.  Traveling mercies give courage in the face of unavoidable threat, and they inspire hope in the hardest places. These mercies are new every morning, signs of God’s great faithfulness.