When you don’t know the way

“Your destination is on the right.”

I was on my way to a friend’s house, driving unfamiliar territory, thus relying on the GPS. A few months ago, my husband and I joined the world of smartphone users and became painfully aware of how dumb we could be without them. This was not the first time I had given my phone the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” look.

When I’d punched in the address for my new friend’s house, the GPS gave me two scenic route options, and I took one because it was a nice fall day in Lancaster County, a place people pay money to come see in the fall, and I can see it every day for free. I passed touristy stuff and plenty of Amish buggies and schools, letting the GPS guide me as I gawked at the trees, rolling hills and changing colors.

When the GPS voice confidently declared I had arrived, I had my doubts. The only thing on my right was a cow pasture, and I was pretty sure my new friend was not a farmer.

I continued driving the road, thinking maybe it just had the wrong “right” location and I’d find the correct address if I kept going.

Then the road ended. And I had no idea where I was.

That’s when I called my friend.

“I’m pretty sure I’m lost,” I said. I gave her some road names and she confirmed my suspicions.

“Yeah,” she said. “You really are lost.”

Turns out there’s a big difference between “road” and “avenue” in addresses around here. One will put you in a cow pasture. The other, will lead you to a friend.

blank sign

I’m off course right now. Wandering in a cow pasture in the form of laundry and dishes and sickness and disappointment. At times, I hear the words “This is it. This is all there is” and even though I doubt the truth that I’ve arrived at my destination, part of my believes it.

Because I don’t know the way.

I don’t know how to get from here–where my son shrieks for my attention and sits on my lap when all I want to do is write. To there–where I can write and write and write the stories in my head. My blog sits empty. My mind turns to  mush under the weight of all.the.household.stuff. And I wonder if there’s a way to get there. Or if I should stop looking.

I don’t know the way to love well. I complain and whine and mutter sarcasm under my breath even to the ones I love because I feel unloved.

And I don’t know the way to love from a distance, when family and friends are hurting. I fear doing the wrong thing so I do nothing they can see.

And sometimes I choose all the paths, instead of one good one, because I think the way to “be” is to “do.” And I find myself lost again, unsure of how I got there.

Our family relies on the GPS a lot more now than I ever thought we would.

On the one hand, it’s made me more adventurous to try new routes and explore new areas because hey, if I get lost, the GPS always knows where I am and can help me find my way back.

That day, it got me back to where I needed to be without further incident, and I was grateful.

Though it often gives us the shortest, most direct route, I tend to use it to find the country roads, the back ways, the less traveled paths.

Takes longer, sometimes, and sometimes, I get lost.

But sometimes, getting lost leads to discovery. Unintentionally, I found the best ice cream in Lancaster County that day, according to my new friend. Next time, I’ll have to stop and try it.

It’s a tired joke that men won’t stop to ask for directions or admit they’re lost. Truthfully, I have a hard time admitting the same, and having a GPS almost makes it more humiliating.

But the truth is, we all lose our way, or have at some point. We’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in a “bad” part of an unfamiliar city. Before our GPS days, Phil and I once missed the exit for LaGuardia to pick his parents up from the airport and ended up on some city streets in Queens. In the middle of the night. Talk about scary for these country bumpkins from Illinois.

Or maybe we tried a side road and found a detour or construction. Or we kept to the highway and an accident barred our passage and we had to find our way around it.

Delays, detours, missed exits, wrong addresses. It’s a part of life.

And of course, I’m not just talking about driving.

How easy is it for us to admit we’ve lost our way in other areas of life? Can we say to someone else, “I’m lost. I just don’t know what to do next.” Whether it’s a job decision or a family crisis or the pursuit of a dream. It’s never easy to admit it. But until we can say the words “I’m lost,” we’ll find it hard to find our way forward.

Sometimes, the way forward, is back.

Maybe it’s not so much that I’m lost. Wandering. Unsure of the way. Maybe it’s more that I’ve picked the wrong voice to listen to.

I trusted the GPS the day I ended up lost. But even as I drove, I remembered what my friend said.

“It’s really easy to find.”

Two or three turns into the adventure, I should have realized I was off course. But I trusted the GPS. And it’s only as smart as the one punching in the destination.

Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.


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