Ewan McGregor, of Star Wars fame (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and many other films, has produced several adventure documentaries over the years chronicling his long distance motorcycle rides with his childhood friend, Charley Boorman. His first docu-series was Long Way Round where he circled the world…mostly. His second was Long Way Down—a ride from England to Cape Town, South Africa. His most recent—Long Way Up—starts in southern most Argentina and traverses over 13,000 miles north to Los Angeles. All these adventures involve extreme weather, mountain passes, indigenous peoples, water crossings, mud, sand, snow, high altitude, border crossings, breakdowns—you name it! The scenery is spectacular, and McGregor and Boorman are able to have a great sense of humor about all their predicaments…and there are plenty of predicaments!
Of course, I’m drawn to any motorcycle adventure, and you know that if you know me. In my early riding years, myself and five other men motorcycled off road across the Outback of Australia. We had many similar experiences as McGregor does on his adventures. Over the years, I’ve ridden off road south to north the length of Utah, Colorado, and Washington. If you read my book, in one chapter you read about my adventures in Baja, Mexico. Recently, over Christmas break we spent a week in the Mohave Desert cracking the throttle. When people ask me how I do self-care given all the death, tragedy, and grief I witness my first go to answer is, “I ride!”
In McGregor’s adventures he and Charlie make numerous stops in places where there is humanitarian work happening—orphanages, schools, environmental work, etc. He has a real heart for what’s going on in the world. Matter of fact, in Long Way Round he spent time at an orphanage in Mongolia, met a two-year-old orphan and after the trip came back and adopted her as his daughter into his family. In his recent episodes he and Charlie visited a very remote village of an indigenous Inca people where an NGO had been doing work for many years to provide education to them, young and old, in their native language. Another stop on their journey involved a helicopter side trip to a remote Amazon village where an NGO was working to help people learn how to cultivate the forest in a way that would also preserve it. Later on the trip a day was spent with UNICEF workers who established a base camp in Peru for Venezuelan’s escaping the tyranny and bloodshed in their homeland. Their work involved mostly mothers with children and even children arriving without parents.
I couldn’t help but think (bear with me as I think out loud) about how God’s love permeates all of humanity if we choose to allow it in our lives. I was really touched by the love, devotion, commitment and calling these humanitarian people had for serving those who had great needs. I was just as touched to see how those who were having acute needs met were seemingly full of a kind of joy that only comes from being loved. Yeah, I know, the camera is rolling and doesn’t capture the day in and day out disposition of all.
It occurred to me that I was witnessing a spark of the Divine and the love of God being expressed in all kinds of ways in these remote parts of South America. I have no idea what the religious back drop is or what faith, if any, existed among the humanitarians but one thing stood out—love could not be expressed more profoundly that what I was witnessing.
It made me think further and deeper that as much as we Christians emphasize “knowing Jesus” or “accepting Jesus” or “being saved” in our tightly knit constructs of Christian doctrine, the ultimate expression of how God works in the lives of human beings couldn’t be any more potent than how these individuals (unknowers) were sacrificing and giving of themselves in exactly the way God intended us to live and love. Perhaps God can have his way with human beings even if they are unaware of where this love comes from, eh? Maybe too, God blesses the hearts of those who simply love others for the sake of love—and they may be unaware of how or why they sense fulfillment in their lives. Maybe Jesus is having his way with some of those who are unaware but following their heart drawn to love. Maybe some people “get it” without really getting it—religion. How much sweeter to know and follow Jesus.
But alas, “salvation” kind of throws a wrench in the works, doesn’t it? Some would argue that these humanitarians or possible unknowers must ultimately be saved despite their capacity to love more authentically than I do. Some will insist they are still “lost” or “unsaved.” Love comes from God, right? Do true lovers of others come from God? Maybe. “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” I’m not claiming to be right about anything but simply saying that I see a spark of the divine in those who simply love regardless of how we Christians might categorize or label them and it sparks a flame of awe in my own heart to see love expressed in this world. That’s all.
Ewan and Charley pride themselves in always taking the "long way" to their destination. In God's docu-series called "life" the "short way" to Him is love. Religion always feels like the "long way to God" fraught with all kinds of predicaments. Love is God's short way to Himself. Some lovers have arrived and don't even know it.