Proverbs 16 reminds us that we can make our plans, but only God can make them come true. Before I left Ohio to make the 17 hour drive back to Florida, I made a plan. I printed out the route from google maps and felt satisfied that I could accomplish the task. After all, it was pretty much a straight shot down I 75. No problem. Home free. Winding my way through the holiday traffic around Chattanooga, Atlanta, Macon and Valdosta, I started feeling pretty confident that even though I’d been driving for well over fourteen hours, I was still ready to finish the job and head for home. Happily, I wasn’t feeling too sleepy, though I was a bit bleary-eyed from all the lights of oncoming cars and heavy traffic through all the big cities. I had stopped for coffee and planned to just get home and crawl into my own bed.
I was listening to a novel on my cd player and it looked like I would finish the book just about the time I arrived in my driveway. As I hummed along on I 75, I saw a sign that showed an exit for Belleville, Florida. I was awed that I had reached my destination exit so quickly, but got off the highway, knowing that I’d face some country roads as I wound my way to my home town. It was around midnight and the further I went on the old road, the darker it got. There were no street lights, no houses, hardly any road signs. After a bit, I realized that I was totally in the wrong place. I started to go down one back road and then another, hoping to see a bigger road that would let me get back on the highway. After a half hour or so, I was still trying to find my way. It was foggy and my gas tank was getting lower on fuel. Making one turn to the right, I started down yet another road hoping it would get me to somewhere I could recognize. There were still no gas stations, no little mom and pop stores, nothing but darkness and uncertainty. As if it could get worse, I found myself in a dark road where a fire had happened earlier. By the time I arrived, and there were no firetrucks or other indicators anywhere, the thick smoke was still wafting its way across the road, making it impossible to see. Now I was not only lost, I was unable to drive forward because of the smoke and even breathing was difficult, and the road itself was very narrow. I started to pray.
“Lord,” I said. “This isn’t exactly how I had planned to start the New Year. In fact, I’m wondering if I’ll be seeing YOU before I see my bed again. Please help me.” I started to weep with frustration and worry that someone would surely run into my car because of the thick smoke. I did the only thing I could do. I started backing up, hoping I wouldn’t back into the ditch that was a three foot drop-off on the side of the road. Slowly, I turned the car around, praying the whole time that no one would come around the bend and run smack into me. I was scared to death. This was NOT my plan at all. I started thinking about how grateful I was that I had just seen my kids and how much I hoped to get out of this mess so I could see them again.
Finally, I found a clear patch of road and drove till I saw a sign for a town about thirteen miles away. I decided to drive toward the town, hoping my nerves and my gas tank would get me there. When I finally found my way back to I 75, having now traveled a good two hours more than I had planned, I remembered that I was supposed to get off the road at Bellevue, Florida, not Belleville. At 3AM, I pulled into my garage and wept for joy. I thanked God for getting me home again.
Sometimes, we make our plans and sometimes with no warning at all, we get off the path, unable to see what is up ahead. Fortunately, we have a God who goes before us, who helps us find a way to the light again. This year, as you travel your path, know that you will find moments that are somewhat uncertain, somewhat off the path you had planned. If you do, then keep looking up, for your Heavenly Father will surely provide a way back to better ground again. What a blessing that is!