By now, you’ve probably figured out that I am pretty clear about my fears….fears like taking a detour and getting lost, driving or riding over bridges, spiders, and of course, flying. I have more than enough fears to cause a rapid heart beat, clenched fists, screams and impatient responses in my life.
While I have true stories about each of these fears and why I think I’m afraid, there is no getting around the reality that they do cause stress in my life. But let me share just one brief example and try to offer a reflective thought or two.
This one has to do with bridges and detours. A fear years back, a dear friend gave Sr. Steph and me tickets to go see Wicked in Montreal. First, she was going to join us, and second, it is still the one and only time I’ve been able to see a “Broadway level” performance. BUT….to get to Montreal, you have to go over big bridges, so my excitement was a bit tempered. However, I tried to be a “big girl” with KE in the car with us. We made it over, enjoyed a tremendous performance and then started the ride home.
Now, you should know that her portable GPS wasn’t working properly so, I was driving and suggested we simply follow the flow of the traffic. Big mistake! First, there was a detour so yes, we were lost. Second, following this flow of traffic, presumably out of the city, landed us on a “ONE WAY OPTION OVER WATER, WITH A TRAIN COMING AT US IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!” I kid you not. So, I clenched the wheel, quickly realized that we couldn’t pull off or out, it was bumper to bumper traffic, and I had no other option than to go over this bridge/road with a train coming in the other direction on a track next to us. I started saying “I can’t do this, I can’t do this. Dear God, why? ” I was half praying, half hyperventilating and half uttering under my breath. Yes, three halves do not make a whole or nor does it make any sense, which is exactly what I was feeling.
In the midst of this, Sr. Steph, who is sitting in the front passenger seat, is trying to coach me through this with phrases like ” Debbie, you can do this, stay calm”. CALM was not in my vocabulary at that moment. But she has always been the voice that challenged me, a voice that calmed, guided, supported me. Then, while this is unfolding, I hear KE tell me from the back seat, “Ok, just suck it up and drive, girl” , a voice that challenged me once again! In an odd sort of way, she’s also been a supportive voice in all the years I’ve known her and can offer laughter to help get through the detours of life.
Yes, we finally made it off that stretch of hell, and we were headed back home. We had a lot of laughs when it was over, but that experience, like the spiders and the flying and the detours in my life, often cause me to ask God…”Why?!!!” What is it, God, that you are trying to tell me? Haven’t I shown you my faith, my loyalty, my love? Why?
So, as I’ve often done, I invite each of you to pause a moment, and think of the detours your life has taken. What are your bridges, spiders, flying experiences that cause you stress, uncertainty, longing for peace and calm?
I confess I don’t like detours, nor any of the other things I’ve mentioned. But all of this has moved me to reflect on detours. Life holds so many detours for each of us, moving us out of our comfort zones and the plans we have laid forth. Detours like loss of a job, serious illnesses, death of loved ones, fractured relationships…and so many more truly life changing and sometimes, life shattering detours. Even within the Mission of Hope, we’ve had detours – like figuring out ways to help the poor in spite of roadblocks and bridges that often seem too high to maneuver around.
- Detours like putting our mission service trips on a temporary hold because of civil unrest.
- Detours like figuring out ways to get around natural disasters so we can share our compassion and our hope.
- Detours like bridges, spiders and flying that can attempt to distract me from being a person who is called to serve with hope and compassion.
What are the significant detours you’ve experienced in your life? Sometimes, they may appear trivial and sometimes, they are truly devastating. How did you work through them, heal from them and regain hope in your life?
And in the midst of our life detours, there are both the voices that calm and affirm, and the voices that challenge. Both are needed and both help move us from paralysis to healing and hope. Who are the voices that calm and affirm and guide you in the midst of your life’s detours? Who are the voices that challenge and invite you to move beyond what you know at the moment?
I am fully aware that part of my challenge when these “detours” arise in my life, is a challenge to trust God more. I find that easier said than done many times. I truly believe that the detours in my life, in our lives, are often aspects of being human and the limits that come from being human. At other times, I believe they are part of a greater plan, i.e., God’s design for my life. I don’t have this whole “trust in God” thing totally figured out yet. Many times, I trust but I also am inclined to tell God how I think it should be.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God says:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)
Yes, it is possible to both believe in this promise from God and yet, to also know you still have a ways to go in terms of fully understanding and trusting. These seeming paradoxical positions are part of what it means to be human. These life detours, these experiences, catch us off guard obviously….and in the midst of living, we must find purpose when life doesn’t make sense. Detours don’t mean escaping from life’s struggles….but they do mean, that as we live through them, we will find the strength, the purpose, the hope we believe in. Perhaps it is then that we will understand “why”.
So, as you climb your mountains, drive over bridges, fly on a plane, stare down a spider, and deal with the detours in your life, may you live and be HOPE!
Sr. Debbie Blow