Last year, almost to the day, my wife and I took a three-week vacation down Highway 101, starting from Astoria, Oregon and ending up on Catalina Island. We built a raft and drove our Focus across the ocean to reach the island. Just kidding.
When we reached Northern California, we drove from Jedidiah State Park, in the middle of the Redwoods (which is breathtakingly beautiful) and passed through Eureka and on down the coast, detouring onto Highway 1 to stay at a bed and breakfast in Albion, which is no longer there. Not Albion – the bed and breakfast.
And what we experienced during that drive, and for the whole trip, was a stunning ascent into a pacific paradise: views of manzanita and redwoods and deep blue oceans and friendly people, of cresting waves and warm sand and water, of sunlight so warm and promising that it seemed the summer would go on forever. It was a scenic route. It was so beautiful, and so overwhelming, that it took me a year to put that trip into perspective, and to understand how a trip like that could suggest how God views my life.
So often in my life I find myself rushing to get from Point A to Point B, to reach my destination before Calamity catches up to me (not hard to do in a Ford Focus – I’d say Calamity drives at least a 300 hp V6). I rush. A lot. So determined to get there. To sort of coerce God into following me in the route I’ve chosen for myself, to prove to him that I know how to get there, and that I can drive faster than Him.
But of course, I don’t. I never do. And so they say that a guy makes plans and anticipates and that when those plans don’t pan out, his friends and family say that he’s taken a detour.
But it’s not a detour. It never is. It’s a scenic route, like Highway 101. God’s decisions and actions and plans are always good. They’re not a detour from the main road; they’re the purposed road He wanted me to take in the first place.
And what, then, is my attitude on a scenic route? One of enjoyment. Relaxation. Contentment. Pure beauty. An attitude of “sitting back and soaking it all in.” The giant redwoods. The blue Pacific. The crescent beaches. The salty air. The kindness in the locals who treat us as vacationers.
That, hopefully, is my attitude when I take one of God’s scenic routes in my life. It’s a process of refinement and discipline, of sacrifices and repentance that all lead to those moments of peace and patience and love and joy during those drives.
They are designed to be slow and cumbersome and winding so that I never know what might happen around the next corner. Sometimes there’s an oncoming semi I need to swerve to avoid. Sometimes it opens out to a vista of sand and ocean stretching beyond the southern horizon on a perfect halcyon day, the sun high and the clouds misting over the coast.
So what about this country? Have we taken a detour? Or is God showing us some things we aren’t fully realizing, a sky dark and scary and threatening, until we recognize within them navigable stars? We have a choice of accepting His discipline, of seeking Him, of asking Him to guide us, or not.
But if we do, we learn to sit back and enjoy the ride, as He drives us through territory so unmentionably good that it might inspire us to invite others along.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you give you a hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11