It’s the Journey that Makes Coming Home Sweet, a Guest Blog from Bob Goff

Donald Miller

Today’s guest post is from my old friend Bob Goff. Bob has a book coming out next month called Love Does and you can pre-order it here. Here’s an excerpt:

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to sail across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Every other year, there’s a race from Los Angeles to Hawaii – it’s called the Transpac Race. For safety reasons, the rules require that competing boats be forty-five feet or longer with a full crew. But on this particular year, they changed the rules to allow smaller boats to go, so a couple buddies and I signed up to enter the race in a thirty-five-foot sailboat.

Now, thirty-five feet doesn’t sound that small at first, until you figure out that it’s about twice the length of a Toyota Camry and a little narrower. After you subtract the pointy end, it’s about the size of a 1960s VW bus filled with twenty-five huge bags of sails, a life raft, six cases of Stagg chili, six hundred bottles of water, five guys, and a porta-potty. Come to think of it, that’s what a lot of 1960s VW buses still look like inside.

The plan was simple. We’d sail twenty-six-hundred miles across the ocean in our VW bus at seven miles an hour while God threw three garbage cans full of ice-cold water in the windows every couple of minutes; and while all this happened, we’d just eat chili and tell manly stories about ourselves. It took a while to get there, but we made it a couple weeks later.

There’s a tradition in the Transpac Race no matter when you finish the race, even if it’s two in the morning. When you pull into the Ala Moana Marina in Oahu, there’s a guy who announces the name of the boat and every crew member who made the trip. There’s a huge loudspeaker and his booming voice bursts through the trade winds and welcomes each person home. It’s the same guy, and he’s been announcing each boat’s arrival at the end of every Transpac Race for decades.

I’ll spare you most of the details of the trip. Just know it involved a lot of water, some stinky dudes, overblown stories of manhood, and lots of canned meats and chili. Just when we came to the end of our supplies, we sailed across the finish line just off Diamond Head and into the marina. It was a few hours before dawn. It had been sixteen days since we set out from Los Angeles in our little boat knowing very little about navigation. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a booming voice over a loudspeaker announcing the name of our tiny boat. Somehow the way he said it, we sounded like we were the size of an aircraft carrier. Then he started announcing the names of our ragtag crew like he was introducing heads of state. One by one he announced all of our names with obvious pride in his voice, and it became a really emotional moment for each of us onboard.

When he came to my name, he didn’t talk about how few navigation skills I had or the zigzag course I’d led us in to get there. He didn’t tell everyone I didn’t even know which way north was or about all my other mess-ups. Instead, he just welcomed me in from the adventure like a proud father would. When he was done, there was a pause and then in a sincere voice his last words to the entire crew were these: “Friends, it’s been a long trip. Welcome home.” Because of the way he said it, we all welled up and fought back tears. I wiped my eyes as I reflected in that moment about all the uncertainty that had come with the journey, all the sloppy sailing and how little I knew. But none of that mattered now because we had completed the race.

I’ve always kind of thought that heaven might be kind of a similar experience. I read somewhere in the Bible that there is a book of life. I don’t think that this book of life is full of equations, and I don’t think that it’s just a list of names either. I think that this book of life is more like a book of lives, a book of stories. I bet it’s about people traveling in the direction of Jesus, trying to follow Him. People like me who made lots of mistakes and midcourse corrections. It’s about people who stayed within the large circle of His love and grace, staying the course on a long line pointing toward Him. And their names weren’t in the book because of what they did or didn’t do. They were in there because of who God is and what He has done to draw a circle around them.

After we each cross the finish line in our lives, I imagine it like floating into the Hawaiian marina when our names were announced, one by one. And at the end, perhaps simple words spoken by a loving and proud God will be, “Friends, it’s been a long trip. Welcome home.”

Bob Goff will be joining us on stage at the Storyline Conference in Nashville and Portland. Register today.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

  • Oh my goodness! This is powerful.

    My questions is this. How can we create these kinds of experiences for people we love? I know that when I welcome someone I love, it is often tainted – tainted by the last way he hurt me, or by the frustration I have because she won’t see things through my own “perfect” lenses. It would be a delusion to think people don’t see through my smile. And I’m supposed to be a live demonstration of Christ’s love on earth!

    As followers of Christ, when we love someone, it is supposed to be unconditional. When we love someone, we shouldn’t even recognize their misgivings even if they slapped us upside the head (1 Corinthians 13:5). My hope is that next time I get to welcome someone, I can do it like my savior….in pure, honest, all-forgiving love.

    • Joe

      What a tremendous question… one that I often struggle with myself. All I can say is that the more time I spend with Jesus, nurturing my relationship with Him, the better I get at this. Still have a long way to go – but, I can see the progress and my intent to finish life strong becomes more amplified with each passing day…

  • Great piece. I can’t wait to read Bob’s book.

    As an aside, I was looking at the top photo. Someone needs to inform Bob that if he’s trying to do what Carl did in the great movie “Up”, he’s going to need a lot more balloons.

  • Sounds like it is going to be a great read. I’ll pick up a copy before Nashville, so maybe I can get him to sign it. Looking forward to hearing from him then.

  • Bill

    What Bob experienced was not what heaven is like in some future life it was heaven. Heaven is here and now you only have to recognize the heaven moments. Each day I see, taste, smell and hear heaven on earth. Of course you cannot have heaven without the opposite which we call hell even Jesus said you could see hell from heaven and see heaven from hell and that heaven was all around you, but you would not recognize it.

  • Shelly W

    Thanks for introducing Bob Goff; I look forward to reading his book as well. This little excerpt made tears spring up since that final day is heavy on my mind. I felt led to visit my son’s grave yesterday and noticed the sting of death was gone and hope just welled up. I realized how the human spirit is longing for that final day; so reading Bob’s words connecting his entering the harbor with our home-going to the Father was a gift today. I love the way God does that.

    If you’re reading these, Mr. Goff, thank you for these great thoughts. And congratulations on completing your first (and hopefully not last) book! What a milestone. Blessings. See you at Father’s big wedding bash 🙂 .

  • Joyce Ayers Miles

    Thank you! Thank you! I loved this blog. So very true…we aren’t home yet!

  • Great story and a beautiful example of what God’s love and His welcome home might be like. I’ve always liked to think the “Welcome Home” on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was similar to making it home, to heaven. So much more than we ever imagined, and then someone telling us the mortgage has been paid in full. Sweet.

  • Wayne Saulter

    There is a great poem called Gone From My Sight by Henry Van Dyke thatthis blog brought to mind: “I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until; at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.” “Gone where?” Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me…not in her. And, just as the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”There are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here She Comes!”

    • “There, she is gone,”There are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here She Comes!”

      My mom died 3 years ago, and I LOVE that picture!

      Knowing that others were just as excited to see her arrive as I was heartbroken to see her go. Warms my heart. 🙂 Thanks!

      • Wayne Saulter

        We have lost some very dear family and friends in the last couple of years. This picture of their homecoming has brought much comfort and is the only reason I can imagine why the Lord would say that their death is “precious” in His sight! Psalm 116:15

  • What a lovely explanation of the book of life!

  • laurie

    Love that…Thank you

  • Sam

    I am struck by how when they read your name, they did’t announce your resume and Klout score and all your experiences, they simply welcomed you with LOVE. I imagine the arms of the father are like that. Our journey to meet him will be long and hard and then all of a sudden we will be enveloped in him and known and home.
    Looking forward to our book!

  • Book pre-ordered! Can’t wait to give it a read!

  • Sara

    Thanks for this! Bob’s words speak truth indeed!

  • christina

    Can’t wait to hear you at Storyline, Bob!!!

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  • Thank you for any other fantastic post. Where else may anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such information.

  • kyle

    Simply WOW. What an ending!