On Tuesday I went to Belper.
I moved country in July, so I’m still living in mostly unfamiliar territory and finding my way to new places can be interesting. My mental map of Derbyshire is a bit dodgy – just little patches of knowledge connected by long spindly lines, with acres of uncertainty on either side.
But Belper is easy. Straight up a charming road called the A6, through a couple of small towns with rather lovely countryside, always heading straight on, and then when you get to a roundabout – you’re there.
On the way back I didn’t even switch the SatNav on.
So it was a bit of a shock when the road ahead was closed. A burst water main had flooded the unfortunate village of Milford and the one road home I knew was completely blocked.
I did the only thing I could – turned round and drove back the way I’d come, looking for somewhere to pull in and turn on the SatNav.
But, as it turns out, I didn’t need to. There was a signpost to a village that sounded familiar – I’d been there once before and I was fairly sure it was close to a route back to the city – And indeed, after driving miles in the ‘wrong’ direction, following signs to Kilburn, I found a different (faster) road home.
Another ordinary tale of my life. But the reason it caught my attention was that I’d spent the morning talking with a new friend about kids and books and church and Jesus, but also about how we deal with ‘roadblocks’ in our lives. You know- when you’ve got a plan, and it all seems obvious how things are going to work out, and then something entirely unexpected blocks the road ahead. When you knew exactly what you were going to do; what was going to happen and how everything was going to pan out, but then you hit a ‘Road Ahead Closed’.
When this kind of thing happens, I almost always sit there thinking a number of unhelpful things: “this isn’t fair”… “I don’t know what to do next”…”I must have heard God wrong”… “this doesn’t happen to other people”… and feeling confused, panicky, and maybe a little bit cross with God for not following the plan.
Sometimes it is the right thing to just wait until God unblocks the road.
But often, there’s a different route to our destination. One that for some reason which may never be clear, he wants us to take. So it may be that a better response to being in this situation is to say, “I still believe in what you said; which way do you want to take me instead?”
Yesterday I could have switched on the SatNav and trustingly followed her instructions – “At the roundabout, take the third left”. Sometimes that’s how God leads us – step by step, us trusting him to reveal his plan as we travel together.
And sometimes that still small voice reminds us that he has already given us an answer, that somehow he has already prepared us to face this situation and with a little help from a few signs, we’re already equipped to find our way.