We faced a 9 hour travel day. We were weary but full from a wonderful week at Bible camp in the Pennsylvania hills. It would take us 2 days to reach home in south Florida, to be reunited with my husband, who was as anxious to see us as we were to see him. Early hours were smooth sailing, covering nearly 200 miles before breakfast! Then it all changed. It started to rain, which continued off and on, sometimes heavy enough to limit visibility, for the rest of the day. The number of large trucks on the 2-lane passage increased, often slowing our climb through the Blue Ridge mountains. We just couldn’t seem to get any headway and our speed varied by almost 20 mph every few minutes, making cruise control impossible.
We had swapped cars with my husband for this trip. His Expedition provided more space, more comfort, a more powerful engine and a larger “presence” on the highway with those trucks! But I am not a tall person, so to be able to see over the steering wheel, my driver’s seat was raised up so far that I couldn’t rest my heel on the floor to manipulate the gas pedal up and down for all of those speed adjustments. I had to lift my foot and come down on the pedal, meaning that all of the tension to manage the right pressure was placed on my knee and hip. It didn’t take long before both became uncomfortable… honestly, painful. I wondered just how long I could manage this difficult travel mode.
It had already been 2 hours of pain-staking driving when traffic stopped! Not slowed to a crawl…STOPPED! Although I was thankful for a chance to rest my leg, a full hour passed while we inched only a single mile! The day ahead of us seemed to loom longer and more draining. Hot tears began to well up. “We followed Your lead, Lord. We sent our daughter to camp. We traveled the 1100 miles to meet her for family camp, trusting You would carry us safely there, and You did! We were so blessed by our time there, so strengthened, so uplifted. Now on one single, tired, frustrating day, I am unraveling! My kids are watching my response and I feel like a miserable failure. I am irritable, I feel helpless, and I really, REALLY just want to be HOME!!!” I knew in my heart the Lord was still with us and would see us safely home, but my head questioned “how?” Just how was I supposed to apply all of those lessons from the past week to this very moment?
The phone rang. It was my husband checking on our progress. I blubbered through an update about our lack of progress and rough driving conditions. He checked his computer and saw that the highway ahead of us was completely blocked for 10 more miles. He offered a detour, which he could see on his screen, but I didn’t feel confident taking, not knowing the area. Despite my reluctance, his urging to “GET OFF NOW WHILE YOU CAN or sit there for several more hours” won me over and we pulled off at the exit that just “happened” to be a few 100 feet in front of us. It took us another hour to complete the detour through winding, mountain roads, but we made it safely back to the main road on the other side of the accident.
We eventually stopped for a late lunch to refuel ourselves and the car and take a break before continuing our trip. We paused to say THANK YOU to the Lord… for bringing us this far, safely, that we weren’t IN the accident, that He helped us find a way around it! The rest of the day was still difficult, with rain and traffic, both heavy and frequent enough to make cruise control still out of the question. BUT, we eventually made it to our hotel in South Carolina and were so thankful to take warm showers and climb into clean, comfortable beds for the night. Our 9 hour travel day had turned into 12, and in a later phone call, my husband reassured us that we were blessed to have gotten through that blocked highway how and when we did… hours later it was still blocked, now for 25 miles, and the detour we took on those side streets was now also blocked for 20 miles! What we couldn’t know or see was that the Lord WAS carrying us through, providing help through my husband who could see the roads from a bird’s eye view on the internet and give us direction. Despite my stubborn reluctance, the Lord helped me to trust my husband’s leading…and in turn, trust the Lord to guide us through him. We avoided far more than we could’ve ever imagined!
After a good night’s sleep and a nice breakfast, we tackled day 2 of our trip with a very different mindset. We were refreshed. We were encouraged. And we knew from the start that we could very well face another difficult day of driving. But we set out anyway, our hearts racing just a bit to realize that, Lord willing, at the end of THIS day, we would be HOME! My daughter asked me why I was dressing nicely and fixing my hair and make-up just to drive all day. I winked at her and asked… “and WHO is waiting for us at the other end? Wouldn’t I want to do my best to be excited and ready to see Dad?”
The Lord granted us an easy travel day to cover the last 500 miles. No rain. Few trucks. Three or more-lane highways to handle any changes in traffic volume. Once again I was able to enjoy the luxury of cruise control! I was SO thankful. I felt ashamed of my heart’s attitude just one day prior, but oh, so grateful for a gracious, merciful, faithful God who meets us where we are anyway and shows us the way home.
Later that same day, I read a blog post from a friend describing a difficult health challenge in their family. Her words stopped me. She said there never seemed to be a chance to breathe, always something new to absorb, process, and make decisions about, always the need to re-surrender it all (with so many swirling emotions) back to the Father. In her words, they “never have the luxury of cruise control on this journey.” Wow. I now had a VERY vivid picture of just what she meant!
Fast-forward a few years and we are standing on the threshold of a new school year (and Bible study year for me). Mixed emotions and nervous energy are running high! Our daughter is starting a fine arts program in a high school out of our area. It is unknown, unfamiliar – she is walking in “cold,” not knowing a soul. Our son is continuing in a conversely familiar and known setting at our local middle school, but on the verge of becoming a teenager, his body is changing in ways that sometimes surprise and bewilder him. My Bible study class has moved to a new location with its own set of new faces and routines to embrace. Whether known and familiar or vastly new and different, I feel the nudge to “buckle up” for this year and acknowledge right up front that there will be no cruise control!
I wonder what might be ahead of us in the way of challenges, new hurdles, unexpected twists or turns in the road. But I smile through the questions to know in a deeper sense that the Lord loves us too much to leave us in cruise control! Our Savior doesn’t ever want us to drift into some float-through-life state that is careless at best, numb at worst. He wants us to discover His presence and His bountiful provisions for us in fresh new ways. He draws us to Himself so we will come to know Him better. And He knows that when life keeps us on our toes, we will fall to our knees and cry out to Him. Why? Because He has already proven that He is trustworthy – oh, so many times!
Our God can see what is ahead when we cannot, for this year and beyond. Whatever we will need, whenever we will need it, He is the One who will send help from unexpected places, grant enduring strength when the storms are unrelenting, provide rest-stops for refreshment, and bless us with easier stretches to appreciate all the more. He will walk each step along with us. As we experience the journey by His side, we will sense the growing motivation to give our very best, knowing that at the end of the journey, we will see HIM!
So, as we take that brave step into a new year, may we gladly surrender any human need for cruise control and lock our “auto-pilot” on the only One who will faithfully guide us home!
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8
Read more here! – Job 19:27 – Psalm 23 – Psalm 62:5-12 – Psalm 84:6 – Isaiah 41:10 – I Peter 5:8 – I John 3:2