I stop in front of the orange and white-striped barricade, hands on my knees in the resting position as I catch my breath and gaze at the wasteland beyond the sign. The path is decimated, unrecognizable. All that remains of the once-smooth concrete are piles of rubble and lots of dust. The signage posted next to the barricade explains that the city is widening the path. It will be closed for the next several weeks. I turn toward 27th street and resume my slow jog.
I figure it’s about the same distance. The street runs parallel to the running path for most of the way, so I know I won’t increase my mileage much. But what I don’t anticipate is the difference in terrain. 27th Street is hardly more than an eighth of a mile west of the path, but it’s anything but level.
I bend slightly at the waist and pump my arms as the sidewalk climbs and the morning rush roars past. I’m breathing harder now, my calves and hamstrings aching more with each plunge and ascent. The sidewalk is uneven, roots from the old oaks and honey locust trees pushing the concrete into mounds, cracking the pavement into a jigsaw puzzle.
A cardinal twitters in the emerald foliage above my head, but I keep my eyes on the pavement, my feet thudding down one curb and up the other. I’ve driven this road hundreds, if not thousands of times in the twelve years I’ve lived in Lincoln, but I’ve never noticed the hills. This route seems so much farther, so much longer, so much harder than my ordinary path. I want to quit.
It’s a familiar feeling.
God took me on an unexpected and unwanted detour these past six years as I climbed steep mountains and careened into deep valleys along the precarious, uneven road to publishing. I didn’t see the detour coming. There was no orange and white striped barricade, no signage warning of a dangerous way ahead. But it seemed God had some construction work to do. In order for the path to be made free and clear, it had to first be demolished and remade.
I love the line in Exodus (13:17-18) that mentions how God led his people out of Egypt not via the main road, which was the shortest way, but on a looping, circuitous route through the wilderness and toward the Red Sea. There was a reason for this cumbersome detour, although the Israelites were not aware of it. God didn’t explain his decision. He didn’t give his chosen people any additional information. We know the reason because Scripture tells us (God was protecting his people from the Philistines), but he didn’t offer this insight to the Israelites. He simply led them on a longer, more roundabout way.
In the middle of what felt like a laborious and difficult detour, on an unmarked path where the way and even the destination were unclear, I forgot an important truth. I forgot that God always has the right and perfect road mapped out for us. I forgot that God always protects his beloved children, even when he doesn’t tell them exactly how and where he plans to lead them.
Sometimes it feels like we are sent on detour after detour, where we meet what seems like one barricade and roadblock after another. The way is long and difficult; we wander aimlessly in circles. We wonder if the way is lost lost forever. Sometimes it even feels like God has forgotten us, like he’s led us astray and then abandoned us in the wilderness.
I know that feeling. I’ve been there. And I won’t tell you it’s not hard and frustrating and even demoralizing at times. But I will tell you this: though the way feels long and the destination but a speck on the horizon, God knows the very best path for you. He may not telling you exactly how and where he is leading you, but he will never stop loving and protecting you along the way.
What this link-up is about, in Nacole’s words: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.
Remember, next week’s #ConcreteWord is MICROPHONE, and Alia will be hosting.