On July 4th 1976, the United States celebrated its 200th birthday, and much to the chagrin of my brother, sister and me, our family headed east instead of south to spend spring break in our nation’s capital to take part in the yearlong festivities.
To make matters worse, the long car ride from our southwestern Ohio home to the Atlantic coast was filled with homework – that’s right, my parents doled out reading assignments. As the miles passed, we spent our time studying AAA travel guides, skimming library books and perusing magazine articles about the geography and history of the sites that we were about to visit.
At some point during that trip, my siblings and I exchanged a knowing glance of skepticism: all of these facts were somewhat interesting to “experience” in black-n-white text and grainy, sepia toned pictures, but none of us were naïve enough to believe we’d ever come close to the actual Oval Office or set foot on the floors of the fabled U.S. House of Representatives or Senate chambers. Instead we’d be relegated to the 50-cent, “everybody crowd in so you can hear me” tour of the Capitol and an uncomfortably warm and noisy bus ride past the White House grounds. Why in the world would Mom and Dad rub our noses in this reality by making us study? We soon learned the answer.
The next morning, the three of us dutifully followed Mom and Dad to the hotel lobby to begin our first excruciating day as common tourists. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary except for the long, black limousine parked at the entrance that was surely waiting to whisk away some politician or dignitary to a high-powered meeting at any one of the area’s major power centers. However, the chauffeur approached us instead. “Good morning! Please follow me to the car as we have a very busy day ahead of us.” He smiled as he held the door open for two beaming adults and three very bewildered children. Once comfortably seated in this lap of luxury, we sped past the ubiquitous tour buses and crowds of weary sightseers to a heavy wrought iron gate marked “authorized personnel only.” A uniformed guard saluted and waved us through to an underground parking area. When we rolled to a stop, an officer in a crisp, white shirt and neatly pressed pants approached. He greeted our parents by name and introduced himself as the Captain of the Capitol Guard. Over a private breakfast in an ornate dining area, we came to find out that this gentleman was the son of a close family friend. Mom and Dad wanted our family to experience this proud moment in our country’s history in a very memorable and unique way, so they asked their friend if special arrangements could be made, and obviously their connection paid off.
Over the next several days we were treated to an insider’s look at Washington D.C. – walking the private hallways and visiting the exclusive rooms frequented by historic figures from the past and present. Maybe Lincoln ate here, maybe FDR met with Churchill there! We went behind the scenes at all the well-known buildings and cherished monuments and even rode in the special people-mover used to shuttle Representatives and Senators throughout the Capitol building. For that short span of time, we felt truly important because we knew someone who was “connected.”
John 14:6 speaks to this same concept from a Christian perspective. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As we learned on our family vacation, you need to know someone in order to gain access to exclusive places and important people. For believers, Jesus is that someone, our special connection who can admit us into heaven for eternal life with our Father. Why did God arrange this? Because, as John 3:16 so aptly put it, He loves us! It’s the greatest example of connecting through love that’s ever been devised. Let’s buckle up together and settle in for the grand tour!