After living in Toledo for almost 60 years, I was accustomed to having alternate routes available when I drive. The landscape is flat in northwest Ohio, so most of the roadways are organized into neat, square grids. Detours are merely a matter of turning a few times and taking a new route in the same general direction. I could navigate my way around most of the obstacles I encountered.
Here in Hurricane, WV, there aren’t as many alternate routes. We live among the hills and creeks, which necessitate winding roadways with few easily available exits. When I encounter trouble on the road, I’m unable to navigate around it. At times I must creep along slowly with many other drivers as we head to our destinations. Other times I must stop to wait until the road becomes clear again. There are even times when I need to turn around and go back the way I came.
I’ve had a few insights about myself as I travel these roads. The first is that I must use the restroom before leaving home! 😀 More importantly, I have noticed that I can become obsessed with reaching my destinations (or achieving my goals). With my prepared plans in place, I become determined to follow and fulfill them as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that I can soon be on my way to my next pursuit. I become quite frustrated when these plans are interrupted- when my forward progress slows, or moves in fits and spurts, or idles, or sometimes even backtracks.
As always, God is blessing me with the lack of alternate routes. The curving roads among the hills have become significant reminders that I am not in control; that I cannot always take the easy way home. I am learning to respect the limits and extra time that my routes dictate for me. I am noticing some precious gifts that these limits offer, such as learning to surrender, to slow my pace, to accept what is, and to make the most of these idle times.
What if our road of life isn’t really meant for moving forward, going the distance, or reaching our goals? What if our road of life is meant to be traveled with a sense of adventure, as we wander and discover more about ourselves and God along the way? When our pace is dictated by our circumstances and lack of options, perhaps that too, is all goodness, all gift. Perhaps our “progress” is not whether we are swiftly and efficiently moving forward, but whether we are patiently and readily remaining on the only route we have; all the while trusting that God is using this route to perfect us- according to God’s perfect pace and direction. Not ours.
Hurricane Creek Road is one of those ‘long and winding roads’ I often drive. This week as I meandered down this road, I marveled at the frosty mist rising from the creek. I came around a bend and was surprised to see the sun cresting over the hilltops. Houses were nestled in the valleys, smoke circling up from chimneys. The barren trees added a beautiful gray background to the golden carpet of their discarded autumn leaves. Christmas music was softly playing. My heart was totally filled with joy and awe at the scene surrounding me. The hills were enveloping me, inviting me to snuggle in with them, into the heart of my new home.
How could I not rejoice?
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11