I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it.* I have no sense of direction. No internal compass. I am completely handicapped in the spatial arena and am totally dependent on my GPS. It is humiliating how I have to memorize landmarks and keep a notebook in my car with directions to good friend’s houses. I walk out of hotel rooms and don’t have a clue where the elevator is, and still have to look at the directory in the mall I have shopped in for 16 years. As someone who is generally competent, this is embarrassing. But truth be told, if you dropped me down in the middle of my neighborhood it would take me a very long time to find my way home. Keep this in mind when I am 80 years old and get lost. This is my baseline. As long as I know my name, I am probably okay.
Last week I took the kids for a glorious visit to my parents’ house in the mountains outside of Roanoke, Virginia.
|Roaring Run Waterfall|
As I left to come home I decided to take a commonly used “short cut” that my Dad loves along the Blue Ridge Parkway (mistake #1). As we pulled on to the parkway my sister called and I started chatting with her about our visit with mom and dad and caught up on her new job. (mistake #2…If I am directionally inept off the phone, I am completely an idiot on it) I drove along mildly aware that I am supposed to be on the parkway for approximately 15 miles. But the fog was so dense (mistake #3…parkway+fog=trouble) I couldn’t see 30 feet in front of me. It was terrible. I’m creeping along still chatting with my sister, and the kids are starting up with the “I’m hungry!” “You promised us breakfast in 15 minutes” business. I lose cell signal with my sister and keep going, but at this point I am starting to realize that an unusual amount of time has passed, even for a foggy drive.
Suddenly, we get a break in the fog and a sunny stretch of clear visibility and I realize I have never seen this part of the parkway before in my life. I ask Will to check navigation and he reports we still have no service. There are no exits in sight and the woman walking along the parkway looks creepily like she is out of a zombie movie. They teach you in Parenting 101 not to show panic to your kids, so I am deep breathing and pressing acupressure points while trying to find a safe place to stop or turn around on this incredibly windy road. And then I hear the very worried voice from the back seat,
“Mom, do you know where we are?”
How many times have I heard that? When Markie was 6 years old he would lead us through the airport because he didn’t trust I could find the gate. My kids have learned to remember where the car is parked in the Target parking lot. I am untrustworthy, unreliable, unsafe, and a horrible fail as a parent...okay, not really, but I feel that way at this moment. But then it comes to me. I can get us out of this situation.
“No, I don’t know where we are, but I know how to get to Grammy’s.”
And I turned the car around.
“No matter how far down a wrong road you are, turn back.” Turkish Proverb
I gave up on the cell service coming back, and gave up on finding an exit that would take me back to a main road. I decided to go with what I knew and what I knew was I could find my parents’ house. That meant going back through the fog and past the zombie woman. And worse, it meant swallowing my pride that I had added an unnecessary 2 hours to our already 5 ½ hour trip. I kept hoping the kids wouldn’t really notice but as we passed my parents’ church they all yelled “Mom, are we really back in Roanoke? So basically we are just starting the trip????” Yep, we sure are.
I think I pouted for the next hour at least. I felt so angry with myself that I had “done it again.” And I would pay the price of being stuck in the car with three unhappy children for even longer than the already interminable trip. But as I stewed and sulked, I was aware of a greater truth lived out in this merely inconvenient circumstance. When I am not sure where I am or how to get where I want to go spiritually, emotionally or relationally I need to turn back and go to what I know. And what I know is that I can find God when I go to His Word. And there is a lot of good instruction and wisdom there, and more importantly there is Truth. There is truth about His character (He is Good and Sovereign) and truth about me (I am flawed but greatly loved). When I have screwed up and have brought down consequences on myself and those I love, I need to turn back and go “home” and not continue to race down a foggy path in the hopes that I’ll figure it out. And at home, in that Secret Place with God my Father, I will find grace and forgiveness and the hope that I can start the journey anew. I hope this encourages you to turn back. In those areas of your life and heart that you sense that you might be heading down the wrong path. It can be really embarrassing to admit you have no idea where you are or where you are going, but it also can be such a great relief to just admit it and head back home. I’d rather take my chances with God than the zombie woman. And home feels really good.
* So I found out a similar idiom states that one can't "fight their way out of a paper bag." So, to set the record straight, I could fight my way out, but once out, I would have no idea where I was.