Being old school, I mapped out a route the night before leaving for an important event. I had chosen what I considered to be the speedier of the two proposed routes on my laptop computer. I jotted down the freeways I would be taking and carefully tucked it in my purse, along with a flier of where I was going. I was all set!
It was my son’s senior year, he was now given the opportunity to compete at the revered Stanford University Cross Country Invite. He left with his team and had arrived on campus first thing that morning. I was to follow. It would be a several hour drive for only a few minutes gratification, cheering for him at the start line and then high fives at the finish line. I looked forward to being there for those moments of excitement and adoration.
This would be my first trip to the bay area in many years, and completely unchartered territory for me to drive all the way to Stanford University. Nevertheless, I was excited and up for the adventure! The kids and I left home as scheduled. It wasn’t long into our journey that I realized we were already falling behind due to the continual stopping and starting of the usual bay area traffic, something I had not taken into consideration. I had my directions, the white college ruled binder paper placed next to me as I was driving, so I could glance down and make sure I was staying the course.
I made it successfully through San Francisco, confidently following the freeway signs that I had jotted down. I had in my mind a picture of the map I had seen the night before. I was to connect to a certain highway and when I did, there would be a bridge over a peninsula of water. Then, I was to arrive shortly thereafter, at Stanford University. It was a city in itself.
I was certain we were on track and felt assured. One more highway sign, hmmm…. Is this my turn off for the peninsula, I wondered. Taking the off-ramp to the right, I found myself merging onto another highway that seemed to be taking me through city limits. The bridge… I thought to myself. This takes me to the bridge. I should be seeing water soon… and then the University. I’m almost there.
Minutes turned into miles, which turned into small meandering roads and tiny quaint towns. We passed through lofty trees and dense forest. It was a gorgeous drive, but unnerving. Nothing was right. No bridge. No water. No University! I began to panic, as I checked the time. Will we make it Lord? Please may we make it on time I prayed.
Realizing the urgency of our situation, I pulled off the road. My younger son and back seat driver was telling me to use the GPS on my new cell phone. I grabbed it, but was unfamiliar with just how to use this limitless tool. Across the street, huddled in the cool of a large shade tree were a group of bicyclists stopped alongside the road. I pulled up next to them and blurted out a most embarrassing question, where am I?
They smiled a reassuring kind smile as I entered the name of this unfamiliar little town into my cell phone, along with our ending destination, that being, Stanford University. I was exuberant when a small red flag popped up on my google map showing me my location and a little blue trail that would lead me to my son, and his quickly approaching race. As I drove, my phone began audibly reciting streets and names of roads I was to turn on and counting down the distance as I approached these, but nothing was making sense. The trail on the phone didn’t match the roads we were driving on!
Desperate and getting quite riled, I pulled the car to the side of the road where there again was a bicyclist, this time a kind hearted woman with a crown of silver hair and beautiful tan skin. I rolled down my window and she instinctively leaned in, her perfect white smile permeating our car. I was now bursting with urgency and cried out “can you help me find Stanford University?!” Instead of her telling me how utterly lost and derailed I was, she pointed and gave me simple directions. “Go down that road, then turn this way, then that way, and it will take you right to it.” It sounded so simple and her smile was so sweet and reassuring. Okay, I thought, we got this. We are actually almost there, even though nothing was making any sense to me. Not the directions I was following, not the GPS on my phone, and not even what she had just told me. I was completely turned around and lost.
I headed down the road she had pointed me to. As I approached a fork in the road, my head began spinning. What did she say, left? No, do I turn right? Oh no! Why didn’t I write down what she said?! While at the stop sign of indecision, I grabbed my cell phone to check the path it was leading me on. Still, nothing matched. Nothing made sense. I was still utterly L O S T.
In frustration, I tossed the phone to the back seat and stomped on the gas. I chose to turn right for no other reason than to get out of the way of the car that had pulled up behind me. As I began the journey down this new road I drove quickly and a bit erratically, as I really began to freak out. I was seeing open fields, trees, and another fork in the road. Up the hill or down the straightaway, I had to make a choice. I chose up, and up we began to climb, higher and higher we went. The road narrowed and to one side a steep grade and the other a steep drop. I could not even pull off or safely turn the car around until I decided to do a three- point –turn, which again headed us down the snaking road back towards civilization.
Backtracking was the right way, as it brought us to a major freeway junction. Hope! But still, where were we and which way to go? Majorly stressing and still in a search and destroy driving mode, I chose a route. It dumped us on a frontage road. My son was now declaring he had figured out our crazy GPS. “Go this way mom,” he shouted! Stopping on the side of the road, a cloud of red dirt enveloping our car, I squinted closely at the phone. I contemplated. And then, I flipped a U-turn! Under the freeway we went. A sign! We saw a sign. It was referencing the University. Oh hope! Hallelujah!
We followed these signs and to my shock and dismay, ended up right where we were supposed to be. This was crazy because we came in off unknown country roads and approached the University from a backend entrance. There, posted along the streets were hand written signs that led us right to the Stanford Cross Country Invite. It was truly amazing!
I did not realize just how miraculous it was that we made it to the Stanford Invite on time, or at all for that matter, until we left. Nothing about our return trip was the same, not even the freeways! From the beginning, way back in San Francisco, I started following a different route than I had planned. And then, I ventured off into the hills winding my way through small bergs and timberlands. It seemed impossible that we could have ever found our way, especially without a map or directions. BUT, GOD.
I had been praying all the way, and in good faith, I put my trust in the Lord that we were going the right way. I had lost my way before I even realized it. How often that happens to us in life. And, even though I got panicky and felt unsure, Jesus was still with us. He was leading us, guiding us, and protecting us on our way. We were not alone, even though we felt lost and confused in an unfamiliar area. When I was desperate, and asked others for help, He used them to give a word of hope, an encouraging smile, and point us back in the right direction.
Old school and without an accurate GPS, the Lord faithfully took us to our destination even though I had wandered way off course and lost my way. And so it is with life. We are God’s children. He loves us and cares for us. He never leaves us or forsakes us, Deuteronomy 31:8. And even if we get lost in life, He is always there to lead and guide us. We just need to ask. Jesus… He is my GPS! And, He will be yours too. All you have to do is ask!
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