This past weekend, I strapped on a helmet and—putting my life in Dan’s hands—hopped on the back of his motorcycle.
He didn’t share his flight plan, but I knew our destination: a tiny country store east of town. So why was he heading in the wrong direction?
South before turning east on Baker Road; north, then east again; a right turn off Highway 20 toward Horse Ridge Trail, looping west and northwest back to 20—Where in the world are we going?!—and finally north on Dobbs Road to Alfalfa Market where we raided the ice cream freezer.
The route home was just as circuitous, staying off the main roads and highways as much as possible.
I think God does that sometimes.
And we say, “No wait, God. Don’t you remember when you spoke that thing to my heart? I’m pretty sure we’re headed in the wrong direction.”
But Dan, the navigator, had our best interests in mind. He chose a route that would be safer with less traffic and streetlights.
It wasn’t direct. It wasn’t the shortest or quickest way. But it was certainly scenic—past evergreen trees and neatly-fenced farms, red barns and livestock, a hawk soaring overhead, and so many snow-covered mountains standing as backdrop.
Dan chose the longer way around because we were on an adventure together, enjoying the landscape, the sunshine, and the anticipation of sweet ice cream. Together. We were together.
I think that’s the point of long-way-around journeys. When God wants our attention, wants our faith strengthened, wants our full hearts, wants more togetherness with us … then He invites us into long-way-around places.
In the Old Testament book of Hosea, the prophet spoke of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. He lists the things God was going to remove from Israel—her grain when it ripened, her new wine when it was ready, her vines and fig trees, and all her celebrations.
At first it sounds as if God is angry with Israel. But I think it’s heart-brokenness. He misses her attentions and affections. He’s saddened that she’s forgotten who gave her all the grain and new wine and reason to celebrate.
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
– Hosea 2:14
This I know from experience: A summons into the wilderness is never meant as punishment. It’s meant as an invitation into deeper relationship with our Creator.
Dan and I have been to wilderness places. I know what it feels like to have loss heaped upon loss, to have so much of what I once valued taken from me. We both know what it feels like to watch cancer steal our spouses a little more with each passing day.
But we also know what it feels like to receive God’s mercy and kindness and provision at a time when we weren’t sure how everything would fall back together.
As it turned out, our motorcycle adventure this past weekend took longer than we expected. All those side roads, all those north/ south/ east/ west turns. But the entire time, I held onto Dan, trusting that he knew where he was taking us.
No, an invitation into a barren place isn’t meant as punishment—even when it feels that way, even when it looks that way.
It’s meant as a privilege. It’s meant to draw our hearts closer to our Father’s heart. Because everything the Father allows is born from His great love for us.