One of the first purchases made on our move to Florida was a golf cart. In the retirement community in which we live, there are currently over 70,000 golf carts being used on an almost daily basis. A golf cart is an indispensable means of transportation here. And there are a seemingly interminable number of golf cart trails and shortcuts throughout this community.
Shortly after our arrival, one of our new friends suggested to her husband that he take us out on a golf cart excursion and help us to discover those golf cart “shortcuts” throughout this community. Her husband made a very astute observation when he said to her, “Naw! Just let them discover them on their own. They will soon discover their way around here.”
You know, that fellow was right. During those early days my bride and I would take golf cart “expeditions” where we would just get in the cart and drive, allowing ourselves to go various places via various routes. It was an enjoyable way to get to know our community and to discover how to get around here as we did.
Our friend also helped us by telling us that if we ever got lost, we should not panic but just pull over, pull out a map, and as we sat there perusing the map, someone would stop to help us and give us the proper instructions to get where we were going.
He was right on that count as well. On our first experience of getting lost, we indeed found ourselves at a loss to find a particular store for which we were looking. So I pulled the cart over to the side of the golf cart path and pulled out a map. I had not been looking at that map for more than a minute or two when a kind woman walked up to our cart and asked if we needed some help finding what we were looking for. Did I mention that this lady seemed rather frail herself? She was walking very slowly with the assistance of a cane and seemed like she was not going to make it to wherever she was going. But when we told her what we were looking for, indeed she helped us get back on the right path.
These golf cart expeditions have often reminded me of my own father when I was growing up. Living in Ohio with many of our family living in Tennessee often meant that trips to visit them took us through a lot of small towns and beautiful countryside. On these trips, my Dad was quite the adventurer. He never wanted to go the same way twice, and his routes were often not the fastest or the most efficient ways to get there. He would take us on highways that we had never traveled, and we saw sights we had never seen before. My Dad loved it when road construction crews would set up detours for us to take. These provided many opportunities for us to see out-of-the-way places, even if just happened to be nothing more than a few farmhouses, barns, cow pastures, and corn or tobacco fields.
Life is like that, isn’t it? We go throughout life and celebrate the milestones of life every time and place they occur. We enjoy the birthdays and anniversaries and often look back at the pictures we’ve taken and say with a smile, “Wasn’t that nice?” And we really mean it. But every so often, the paths of life take us on a detour.
For whatever reason, whether forced or otherwise, we get off the main thoroughfares of our journey through life and take a detour. Now that detour may take us places we have never been before, through the hills and valleys of life. We may travel down highways we have previously only heard about but not personally experienced. They may be pleasant, but they may also be painful. We may experience the beautiful scenery of a journey we have never taken before, but that journey may include sickness and disease, layoffs and unemployment, or other things we not only did not anticipate but were not necessarily prepared for when they occur.
So how do we handle those detours life throws at us? We can get upset, throw a tantrum, and be angry. We can also worry and worry and worry and … did I say worry? What does either of those things accomplish? They just upset us all the more. The Bible even tells us that in Matthew 6:25: “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food, drink and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?” I cannot read that verse and the ones following without remembering Ethel Waters, the actress and singer of yesteryear, singing “His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over me!”
I may be wrong, but I believe God wants us to celebrate the milestones and the benchmarks of life — things like birthdays and anniversaries and the like — with great fervor and joy and anticipation. But he also wants us to look at the detours of life, not in a negative sense, but taking them as a demonstration that God wants us to go a different way in reaching our ultimate destination.
So the next time the journey of life puts you on what seems to be a back road toward an out-of-the-way place, no matter what the vehicle may be, look at it from God’s perspective and after all the sadness and tears and anger and worry subside, be joyful and expectant, anticipating God to take you through new and wonderful places on your journey.
Oh, and if you see somebody who seems to be lost, stop and ask if you can help them find their way.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at email@example.com.