There’s no straight lines make up my life,
All my roads have bends.”from “Circle” by Harry Chapin
When acquaintances ask about my backstory, I often laugh and say that I’ve taken a “scenic route” through life.
“Scenic” denotes a leisurely drive along picturesque backroads, taking in breathtaking vistas or pastoral landscapes. But such a romantic picture isn’t indicative of the road I’ve taken. So, I guess I need a better term.
Wandering blindly, intermittently lost on a bumpy roundabout route might be a better portrayal.
Looking back, I spent my twenties and thirties following my nose, fueled by fancy, and under-nourished from a lack of mentoring. My glaring need for mature guidance never even crossed my mind. If someone had been so lovingly plucky as to speak truth into my life during those decades, I’m sure my pride would have swiftly swept the effort away.
So, while thinking I was making progress, in reality my calendar was just flipping on a self-centered, shallow existence.
My unplanned style of moving down the road also had some unplanned consequences: interrupted education … more failed relationships than I can recall … flirtations with porn … disruptive geographical moves … frivilous career changes … financial irresponsibility … sexual immorality … two divorces.
We all need people to speak truth into our lives at critical times — certainly when we are lost or wandering, but never more so than we are hurting others or ourselves.
For me, my lostness and depravity became blazingly apparent years later, only after the sudden realisation that I was going through the same unproductive cycles again and again with different women.
Sam: ‘This looks strangely familiar.’
Frodo: ‘Because we’ve been here before. We’re going in circles!”from the 2002 movie, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Bible talks a lot about roads and ways. Walking along a narrow, difficult and sometimes steep path is a powerful Hebrew metaphor for one’s spiritual journey.
But, “spiritual” was never on my radar.
Our world so endorses an impulsive, boundary-less, “anything-goes” style-of-living, that it offers few correctives for folks who really need it (like I did), and who find themselves well down the wrong path.
That’s where parents and true friends come in handy. These relationships were designed for support and encouragement, but also close-proximity corrective forces for individuals who are lost, and unable to find their own way back.
My mother and father were hands-off during my early wanderings, curiously more amused with my dalliances than invested in preparing me for future bends in the road. No straight lines at my house! While I was busy doing other things, both mum and dad passed, and there I was — still continuing on at full speed, foolishly focussed on my self-absorbed blast into the future.
As I mentioned in a previous post, “Confidants”, I made no effort to cultivate male friendships during this period, so there were none to come to my aid when I realised I needed them.
So, who’s left when you’ve run out of friends you didn’t cultivate, or when you run out of family you didn’t honour?
Who’s left when you’ve exhausted every resource you didn’t have?
Who’s left when you find yourself down a backroad of your own making, in the ditch, in the dark, humbled and broken and disgusted at where your life formula took you?
I hear you whisper underneath your breath;
I hear you whisper you have nothing left.
I will send out an army
To find you in the middle of the darkest night;
It’s true, I will rescue you.from “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle
Who’s left? The One who was there all along: The One who breathed life into you, who loves you with an everlasting love, and who redeemed you when you were still dead in your sins!
The Straw …
I met a wonderful young lady at a friend’s wedding years ago in Minnesota. I’d just flown in from Vancouver. She was a friend of the bride’s. We hit it off immediately. Crazy red hair, brown eyes and a personality that lights up a room. Later in the car she said something that will forever resonate with me: “I could never have a serious relationship with a non-believer.” Under my breath, I muttered, “We’ll see about that.” Well, that relationship didn’t work out either, but I think God used her to draw me to himself. I lost the girl, but within six months I was His.
A Fresh Script …
It sounds funny, but I met Jesus and my wife, Melissa, the very same year — the year I hit rock bottom. Jesus responded immediately, which was nice of him. Melissa, well … not so fast. (You’ll find that story elsewhere in this blog.)
As followers, God’s word indicates he prefers being our first resort. The one we turn to before all others, and the one in whom we stay connected throughout our days.
As lost wanderers, however, I speculate God doesn’t mind being our last resort, if that’s what it takes to get our attention. Some turn to him as kids in Sunday school; some as teens or while attending university; some on their death beds. I turned to him in repentance in mid-life when stranded on a moral and spiritual backroad.
With weeping they shall come,
And with pleas of mercy I shall lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
In a straight path in which they shall not stumble.”Jeremiah 31:9
I celebrate my 28th anniversary this year with both Melissa and Jesus.
Because of my backstory, I’m humbled by the privilege I’ve had of founding a para-church ministry, counseling distressed and engaged couples for eighteen years, preaching His Word, speaking at retreats on His design for marriage and family, and helping men break free of sexual addictions.
Some days I think it would have been nice to have taken a more direct route. But then I think — nah — all my roads have bends!
Oh, and one more thing: The Oregon Coast cycling trip on which Melissa and I met was run by a company called “Backroads”. Go figure.
Blessings on your home,
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