Right Road, Wrong Time
I don’t like detours or roadblocks. I know the way I want to go, and I don’t want anything standing in my way. Wonder where I got that. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my dad argue with a signpost. One time, in particular, stands out in my mind.
My sister and my niece had moved to Nashville in the late 1970s. They were single, footloose, and fancy-free. I, on the other hand, was married with a three-month-old baby and in serious need of some fun. Mom and Dad decided to head on down to visit them and it just happened to be NQC week. ( I won’t say who engineered that.) So, being the quartet-loving gal that I am, I hitched a ride, baby in tow.
Babies these days have it made in the shade, what with all their super-padded carriers and travel seats, but back then, not so much. So my mom decided the baby needed a way to nap during the twelve-hour round trip. She talked the grocer out of a big cardboard box and cut it down with a butcher knife. She padded the bottom with blankets and who knows what else, tucked a crib sheet around it, and, voila, a baby bed to go. So off we went in Dad’s old ’70 Olds sedan, loaded down with bottles, formula, a week’s worth of diapers, and a baby in a Charmin toilet paper box. (Yeah, some kids have it all.)
We headed south through familiar enough territory, as Mom and Dad were both Southern Illinoisans. Then it got dicey. Dad had heard about Interstate 24, and that it would be “the way” to get from Illinois to Nashville. “There it is, right there on the map”, he’d say. “That looks like a good way to go.” He found the ramp to get on I-24 and thought he was set…wouldn’t make another turn till he got to Murfreesboro Road.
We traveled quite a ways going southeast on the loneliest stretch of road I’d ever seen. Not a single solitary car anywhere. Then suddenly the road just ended…right smack dab in the middle of a muddy cornfield. Dad sat there stunned, motor idling. Mom said, “Well, you’re gonna have to find a way to turn around and go another way.” Dad was adamant, “But I want that 24!” Mom said, “This IS 24, but we can’t go any farther. They haven’t finished it. We’ve got to turn around.” “But it’s right here on the map”, he’d say. “I know it is”, she’d counter, “but it’s not done.” He just kept saying over and over at heightening decibels, “I want that 24!”, as if the louder he said it he could make it materialize.
About this time Little Jimmy decided he’d put his two cents worth in and started wailing. I was trying to keep him quiet because I knew Dad was nervous enough, all the while dealing with my own new-mom anxiety. Here I was, somewhere off the grid in a cornfield with a baby in a toilet paper box. (At least he had somewhere convenient to go to the bathroom.) I fully expected the cast of Green Acres to emerge any moment and for Mr. Haney to offer to sell us directions to Nashville at a “bargain” price.
Dad got out of the car and walked over to the sign that said “Road Closed” as if he could somehow convince it to open just for him. I’d never seen him so rattled. He got back in the car and said, “I don’t know what in the world we’re gonna do.” Dad never had the greatest sense of direction, but he had always managed. In that moment, though, the guy I’d depended on for so many years as a child seemed totally, hopelessly, pitifully lost. He had it all planned out. He knew exactly where and how he wanted to go, but he never counted on this.
Mom was usually fairly free with her opinion, but not that day. She knew that for some reason, maybe because of the added responsibility of a baby in the car, he was keenly aware of his failure. I could always tell when Mom was praying under her breath. She was asking God for direction…not just direction of how to get out of this mess we were in, but how to help Dad help himself.
She finally said, “I wonder if we could just turn around right here and go see if there’s someone to ask.” Dad said again, almost pleadingly, “But I want that 24.” Mom said, “Yes, honey, I know you do, but we’ll have to find another way. It’s blocked.” Finally, she convinced him that even though the road looked good on paper, it wasn’t finished. He turned around with a defeated sigh and drove several miles back northwest and found someone to ask. Finally, we were headed down the old US 41 on our same old route to Nashville.
I hadn’t thought of that in years until a few days ago. I had to take a detour due to an auto accident blocking the two-lane road I was headed down. I thought I knew at least something about the area, but quickly found I was clueless. I came to a “Y” in the road. To the right was a very steep downward slope, the kind where the road just disappears. That was frightening to contemplate. Strangely enough, the road to the left was named “Lost”. I had to laugh. Those were my choices. Head down a dangerous steep hill that led I knew not where, or by turning left admit I was “Lost” and get myself turned around.
That’s the way we all came to Christ, isn’t it? We come to the end of ourselves and admit we’re lost and need Him. But even as Christians, there are times when we think we know what’s best for us. We have our lives all planned out. THIS is what I want…THIS is the way I’m going. We get in a big hurry. Our hopes and dreams may not be unGodly or sinful, and God did, after all, promise us the desires of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. Sometimes those hopes and dreams are tied to a calling, and we may head on down that road toward the dream only to find the path blocked. Patience. Have patience.
See, if Dad had only been content to wait a few months to try out that new route, he could have seen the completion of the road he wanted because NOW I-24 leads all the way to Nashville. It was always the right road…just the wrong time.
David was anointed King as a boy and then went back to tending sheep. Joseph was destined to save the lives of the Israelites from famine even while he sat in prison falsely accused. Moses was always going to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, even while he sat on the back side of the desert. They were on the right road all along ….but had to wait for the right time. God’s timing is everything.
The road to our dreams and successes may be in the process of being paved. The Lord has not forgotten us, left us in some desolate place to fend for ourselves. Maybe there’s something else to be dug up out of the way, some hindrance that blocks it proceeding for the moment. Maybe there’s more ground to clear. That’s the Lord’s job, not ours. He tells us in Proverbs, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” He makes a way where there seems to be no way. Isaiah 45:2 says, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight.”
I wouldn’t want to head down any road anywhere without God’s guidance. And speaking as someone who’s been lost in a cornfield, I can tell you, God’s way is best. Just hold on to your dreams. Don’t rush or try to force your way ahead. Don’t argue with the signpost. Just let the Lord finish the road and you’ll be fine.