Yesterday my husband, Mike, and I were driving home from a wedding I had officiated about two hours away from where we live. Along the way home we had to make a waypoint stop in another city. Our grandniece just graduated from high school and we were invited to her celebration.
We’d never travelled this route before so we were very happy to have the assistance of our car’s navigation system. My dear husband has his own built-in navigation system and he is forever second guessing the car’s. A practice I find alternatively amusing and frustrating. I keep expecting the lady in the car navigation to speak up one day and say, “Mike, why don’t you just turn wherever the heck you want to and leave me out of it!?”
The route, at first, wound through long country roads lined with almond and walnut orchards and occasional sunflowers. The scene was a lovely contrast to the busy concrete suburb we live in. I enjoyed the ride. Long country roads have a way of seeming like forever though and it can seem, after a time that perhaps we’d missed a turn somewhere. I looked at the navigation screen. The solid blue line assured me that we were still on the right track.
After about forty five minutes we found ourselves turning through the streets of a city again, following the signs to Highway 99. Road construction caused a series of detours that only our navigation system could follow. Or so we thought. We expected the onramp to Highway 99 to be right around the next corner, but no matter how many turns we made to follow the detours, the onramp to 99 never appeared. Instead we found our navigation unit had rerouted us. Our new route was on surface streets that lead through some pretty sketchy areas…with no signs for highway 99 anywhere. On both sides of the street were dilapidated homes with more garbage than grass in the yards. Graffiti (not the artistic kind) could be seen on the sides of just about everything; including cars parked along the street with cinderblocks where the tires used to be. I wondered if the graffiti and missing tires were related events or if the graffiti came only after the immovable cars became part of the landscape of the neighborhood.
I looked at the navigation map. The word “Rerouting…” appeared, and not for the first time that day. Each time we turned off from the originally planned route, “Rerouting…” appeared on the screen with an hourglass icon to convey some new thought had to be put into figuring out how we were going to get where we were going. A moment later an updated route was displayed on the screen. Sometimes, the “time to destination” changed too. Boy, that can be disheartening, can’t it? Is there anything worse than seeing your estimated time of arrival suddenly jumping up by ten minutes? Already the ride that we thought would take us about 45 minutes had turned into more than an hour.
We passed by small neighborhood owner-operated shops named after the people who owned them, I imagined. Bob’s Corner Market, Cecil’s Garage, Lucy’s Load and Go… Most had iron security bars on the windows. Signs of poverty were everywhere. Even my six year old Honda seemed like a luxury car in comparison to those we shared the road with as we worked our way through the neighborhood.
My heart felt heavy for the people who lived there. Perhaps because I still remember when I lived in neighborhoods that looked just like this one. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of the residents owned television sets. They can see how different their surroundings are than the ones they see on TV. It isn’t as though they don’t know that their living conditions aren’t as beautifully groomed or comfortable as those enjoyed by many people in our affluent nation. I don’t suppose anyone is particularly happy about living in a poor neighborhood. But most accept that it’s either the best they can do or, worse, all they deserve. That’s how I felt when I was a kid. I genuinely believed that the world that surrounded me was the world I was meant to have.
There was a billboard on the other side of the road. “We buy ugly houses” was printed in four foot letters. “I bet that’s the most lucrative business in town” I said to my husband. Still another twenty minutes to go.
My mind began to wonder. How many wrong turns had my life taken? How many times had God rerouted my life? How much of my life was spent in poverty as despairing spiritually as physically?
I grew up surrounded by uncertainty and chaos. The only things plentiful in our house were anger and criticism. Insecure and afraid I bumbled through life trying to keep my feet on the ground and my head held high. Mostly I held it pretty low though. Because we moved a lot, it was hard to have friends. Because we were poor, there weren’t opportunities to join any sports or learn ballet. There were six girls in my family. Five of them were beautiful. I was the ugly duckling. I did well in school but that wasn’t something acknowledged or celebrated in our home. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t have a lot of reasons to feel good about myself. Don’t laugh, but despite all of that, I always had some strange sense that there was something good inside me. I didn’t know how to define it. I didn’t believe I deserved it. Nonetheless, it was there and I knew that whatever it was, God had put it there.
It’s strange and confusing to walk about believing you’re worthless, while also believing God placed something wonderful inside you.
When I set my mind on God I felt stronger. Like I was on my way to something great and my life mattered. But that wasn’t very often in my early years. I spent way too much time looking in the other direction. It’s tragic the choices one makes when they don’t believe their life matters. Reckless. Dangerous. Regrettable.
Today I can’t help but wonder how close I am to being whom or where God originally had in mind for me to be. It makes me sad, sometimes, when I think of the circuitous route I took to the beautiful life I’m living today. I have a loving husband, three amazing children, one terrific son-in-law, another great guy betrothed, two adorable grandsons and two precious dogs (full disclosure, I am leaving out the mean-spirited feral cat that my daughter Kelsey gave to me for my birthday 9 years ago. I’ll say I love him, but I can’t say I’m especially grateful for him). I have wonderful, awesome friends all around me. None of it would be if I ALWAYS turned the wrong direction. None of it would be if I’d have fully given in to the hopelessness I felt so long ago.
I am deeply grateful to God for all the times He rerouted me when I turned off in the wrong direction. I have many, many reasons to feel grateful for my life.
And without hesitation I can tell you that God has a few more destinations plotted out before me. I feel it in my bones…even on the days when I feel bone tired from the journey. I only pray that I’ve gained enough wisdom along the way to be a little more like my husband who has done a lot to help me gain a better sense of direction.
How about you? Have you sensed God’s direction for your life? Have you turned off in the wrong direction? Beloved, please know that no matter where you are right now, God is sending you guidance. There are mile markers and road signs and people who can help you read them when you can’t read them for yourself. No matter how far you’ve wandered, God is always there to redirect you back to where He longs for you to go. There is something wonderful inside you that He placed within you. It’s His gift in you that He planned as the gift you’d give the world. Don’t give up. You’re not lost. Not to Him.
In His love and service,