Nearly two weeks ago on a chilly Tuesday morning, I had a conversation that was loaded with equal parts humor and real confession. My beautiful friend, Mrs. Rita (my long lost best friend) and I were having a conversation. She and I share a mutual dislike for being lost paired with an inability to navigate the unfamiliar. We chuckled at stories of days when we had forgotten our way or when construction caused our familiar life-beaten paths to change. I admitted I use my phone to navigate most of my life, and I’ve just recently moved up to the achievement of making it to Flowood without getting lost. If you searched for my sense of navigation, I’m afraid you’d get lost trying to find it.
After our conversation, we shared a hug, and we parted ways. Not two days later, I agree to meet a friend in Flowood for dinner. We haven’t caught up in a few weeks as she’s quite busy slaying life and I’m distracted by the stacks of unorganized chaos I call a to-do list. My conversations with Margaret are always a breath of fresh air. She is both witty and intelligent. She’s observant. Nothing gets by Margaret in conversation, and she can effortlessly kill your pride, encourage your heart, and minister to your soul all without batting an eye. She is extraordinary.
With a smile on my face, I stepped into the car to go home. I took the path I knew. I zipped and zoomed (within the speed limits, of course, Mom.) down the dark winding road. I was used to turning left just at the “road closed” signs. I didn’t need to look for it because the road just emptied out in one direction. But suddenly the stripes on the road changed. My lane was suddenly white stripes and reflectors. Then I was coasting down a bike lane. Everything was veering right. The “Road Closed” signs loomed in front of me, but the road emptied right. This was wrong. Something was very very wrong with my route well traveled. I had driven this dozens of times. I knew this road. I stopped mapping it out because I knew this journey. But I was turning right. The right road continued for a while, and there was no place to turn around. It was just four lanes of dimly lit black tar looming in front and behind me. My safety and security were slipping away from me like a blown back tire. Going. Going. Gone.
“I don’t know where I am! I don’t know this! I don’t know where I am!” I cried out audibly.
Nothing looked familiar. Nowhere to turn around. No idea where I was going next. I was stuck with no choice but to move forward. Just keep driving, I would tell myself, just keep driving. You’ll find it eventually.
I was right. The road dumped me out on a 4-way intersection off Old Brandon Rd. I was just a few blocks from a summer camp I worked with in college. Minutes from home and work. I wasn’t lost at all. I was at the edge of my two cities. I was home. After getting home, I considered where I went wrong. The giant veer to the left had changed since I drove through their last. There were no signs or indications of where it had been. I had apparently driven by it without a single thought. My conversation early that week with Mrs. Rita came back to my mind. I considered how we chuckled at how much we hate construction, detours, and how our roads change so consistently. Something I had just joked about days before had only happened to me. I’d been lost with no idea where I was or how to get home.
Walk with me to tonight. I met another dear college friend, Emmalyn, for dinner tonight in Flowood. As I hurried home in the chill of this late November evening, I was more aware of the road’s circumstances. It had become clever, but I was going to outsmart it this time. I drove further from the strips of shops and down the boulevard of lampposts and trees. Every single opportunity to turn around taunted me that this might be the turn I was looking to take. A car behind me was unimpressed with my speed and cautiousness (they must not be afraid of being lost) and zoomed ahead of me. My fears were relieved at that moment because they must be looking for the same road I am. Sure enough, the car signaled and started pulling into the left turn lane. I followed behind, and as my front tire hit the edge of the turnaround, I saw them brake and veer back into the lefthand lane. It wasn’t the right turn. I checked behind me and slowly crept back into the lane I had just moved. I laughed because I realized the care behind me had no idea where it was going either. Two more turn arounds and the car pulls over again, and I follow. Yet again we are wrong. By this point, there is an additional car behind us following us in and out of the lefthand turn lane. We are lost. That exact moment is when the weight of it hits me. WE. We are lost. It wasn’t just me this time. These were my friends inside these fellow cars just looking for the lefthand road that leads us home. We were lost together. What a stark contrast from just weeks ago when I was blindly following the road alone.
Together, the three of us find the correct spot that empties to the left. I half-shout in victory, and I am confident that we would have all pulled over to high-five one another had this been a movie. We had been to the battlefield and we were coming home changed. Perhaps that is just the way I feel about it all though.
You are not alone.
As I turned the corner, I could feel it all clicking into place. This wasn’t just another drive home. This was an ordinary moment that Jesus was going to use to speak to me.
You are not alone, He whispered.
You see, there are times and seasons when you will follow the same path you’ve always known, and it doesn’t lead you home. It might drop you out in a field or send you soaring into a bicycle lane in the darkness. There are going to be moments where you have no way to turn around. You must go forward. God promises there’ll be just enough light for your feet to take the next step or two. Above that is up to our Father in Heaven. You can’t break or turn around, but you can go forward. Your road of unfamiliar territory will end eventually. You’ll find your way to something familiar, or He’ll tie you to the unknown road, so that becomes your home. Either way, He’ll lead you to your ultimate home in Heaven.
But unlike my ride through unfamiliar territory- you are not riding alone. There may not be a ton of people on the road you’re traveling, but the few that are there are all you need. There have been a million moments the last few weeks where I’ve wanted to reach out and cling to the hands of those around me. Mommas who strive to pursue and love their children, friends who need to know they are giving life all they’ve got and killing it along the way, the friend who fought back tears as she talked about her mother’s poor health, the friend who can articulate just how quickly and purposefully the Lord has changed his life. I’ve wanted to cling to these people in all of the emotions.
My sister had emergency surgery yesterday. It was unexpected. It was scary. It was a road we hadn’t traveled before. But the Lord used so many to guide us through. From friends to offer encouragement, to special individuals who brought food and company, for prayers that covered us in peace. It was a day where everything was just enough. There was just enough grace and peace that we all got to rest, and we got through the day. I shared a photo on social media of me with my sister, Audrey. She’s asleep in the hospital bed, and I’m bent over in a hospital chair with my head propped on the bedrail. The piece of the picture worth noting is the two hands that cling together. Despite circumstance and situation my sister and I are clinging to one another.
When I first saw the photo, I was less than thrilled to be documented for sleeping. Later, I couldn’t bring my eyes away from the two clasped hands. So simple yet such a statement of our loyalty to one another in blood and friendship. Audrey said she couldn’t rest until we were all there together. As soon as I arrived, she drifted off to sleep.
Sometimes we will have to travel the road less, well, traveled. Sometimes God will surprises you with the most flipped upside down day that somehow manages to be more than okay. When He calls you into the unknown just know you aren’t going alone.
That photo will always serve as a reminder to me that when things get crazy, you can grab one another and bind together. You are not alone.
Clinging to you and the Lord,