Monday, June 30, 2008

God, Getting Lost, and A Hint of Irony...

Nancy and I have just returned from a relaxing time at Bald Head Island (I know -- very appropriate considering my hairlessness) North Carolina. The return drive took a bit longer than it should as we traveled home via bookstore visits and workshop presentation in Wilmington, NC and then Johnstown, PA -- not exactly a direct route from Southport to Indianapolis.

The trip from Johnstown took longer than it needed because I got lost. Completely turned around. Just after doing a reading from Sacred Compass. The reading went well, the audience seemed engaged, and then, after chit cat and signing some books, it was off in the car. Nancy read the Mapquest directions and I followed those well read directions. Well, I thought I did. I must have done something wrong because I couldn't find the road that we were looking for -- and thought we were on. After a mile or so, I pulled out our road atlas (having declared Mapquest worthless) map and looked -- as long as I continued south on the road we were on, we'd run into the road we were looking for.
So south we continued -- right into the heart of downtown Johnstown and "Thunder in the Valley," a huge annual motorcycle event. ("Thunder" explained why I couldn't get a motel room in Johnstown -- here I'd thought it was all the Friends General Conference Quakers taking them up! Which didn't fit with my mental image of FGCers being frugal types.)

Everywhere I looked was a motorcycle, motorcycler, vendor, streets not being where they were supposed to be, and no Route 219 heading toward the interstate. Time was a passin' -- and I was frustrated. Instead of being ahead of schedule and almost to Sommerset, we were still in Johnstown and home was 7 hours and 43 minutes (according to Mapquest -- which I was cursing at this point) away.

Finally, Nancy spotted a sign that said "To 219" and up the ramp we went. It didn't make any sense -- why would we go north to find the road going south? And why were none of the roads where they were supposed to be? Finally, 10 miles later, came an exit for Route 219 -- 1/2 a block from where I originally turned on to the road the led to 219. How can that be, I wondered? As I merged into the swiftly moving 219 traffic, I glanced up at the mirror and noticed the compass embedded in it by thoughtful Toyota engineers. I was, and had been since we got on the road that said "To 219", going south. My mistake earlier was that, when I made the first turn in Johnstown, instead of heading south (like I thought I was), I turned north -- and had been moving away from my destination the entire time. That's why MapQuest and the road atlas were worthless -- I was reading them "upside down." All I needed to do to get going right was to look up at the compass. I would have seen clearly that I was going north, not south, and turned around.

This all reminded me, after I calmed down and quit feeling quite like an idiot, that it is precisely when I think -- no, not think, rather am CERTAIN!!!! -- that I'm going the right direction that I need most to check my compass. And in this case, I'm not talking about the Toyota one. I'm thinking about my sacred compass; the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I may have checked the maps, the weather, the road conditions, and my own sense of direction -- but that may not be enough.

The car's compass was there. I just needed to consult it. When I did what the maps told me began to make sense and 7 hours and 52 minutes later (we made up some lost time) we arrived safely back at Ploughshares Farm. I checked the compass when we turned north into our long driveway, though, just to make sure!

-- Brent


Robin M. said...

Maybe you just needed a new story to illustrate your point when you talk about your book...

It was wonderful to see you both again at the reading in Johnstown - I'm looking forward to seeing you in December!

Brent Bill said...

Well, it is a good story and I did get to use it on the radio the other day. You see the way God deals with me -- no sublte leadings. Just in your face stuff -- the only kind I seem to get!