When I was in university, I lead a mission trip to Tijuana. I, along with a group of teenagers and a spattering of parents, drove from Vancouver to Mexico to lay new flooring for a local school. It was hard, but glorious work.
Much of our time was spent in worship and work, except for one evening of shopping and relaxation. This well-deserved evening off was to take place at a resort roughly 45 minutes away. We were given detailed instructions on how to get to our destination; turns were clearly marked, and visual references were noted. Most importantly, we were told what not to do. Specifically, our instructions read: “Do not take the toll bridge!” This note was underlined and highlighted.
You probably see where this is going.
Somewhere along the way we zigged when we should have zagged. We ended up confused and turned around, driving around a city that was not our own, and unable to ask for help. We felt disheartened and discouraged. We turned a corner, and there it was: the toll bridge. This was the first indication that we were hopelessly lost.
Or were we?
The fact is, after all these years, our journey through the toll bridge stands out in my memory. Unable to turn around, we paid the toll and found ourselves driving along the coast of Mexico. We could see the waves crash against the beach, barely 30 feet from the road’s edge. As we drove, the setting sun painted the evening sky with a bright array of purples, oranges, and pinks. The clouds painted the colorful rays like brush strokes across the heavens. It was a glorious sight to behold, more glorious than I can describe here. Each of us in the van were silent as we took in this majestic scene.
The life of faith doesn’t always go the way we would like. There are twists and turns along the way, and we may, at times, feel lost and confused. But what if we aren’t as lost as we think? What if the twists and turns are part of God’s grander plan for us? What if we are exactly where we need to be?
We see this reality in Scripture. As Israel began their trek to the land of promise, the path before them seemed clear. The journey from Egypt to the Promised land lay before them, uncomplicated. They even had the divine presence to lead them. Israel believed that their journey would be easy and straightforward.
If you know the story, you know this wasn’t their experience. In many places Israel felt lost. They felt confused. This feeling of lostness, however, was not because they veered away from the divine path, but because God lead them in a roundabout way. The book of Exodus records that “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer…So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13;18-19). Importantly, this description lies at the beginning of their journey, before any grumbling or complaining, before Golden Calf’s or divine rejection. God chose to lead the people in a journey that was not straightforward.
God used the roundabouts, the twists and the turns, as avenues for growth. It was in their perceived lostness that Israel experienced the blessings of God in profound ways. And, in each step of way God proved faithful. Eventually, Israel got to where they were going; as did we. We arrived at the resort roughly 40 minutes after everyone else, having taken a glorious detour. To this day, the blessing we received driving down that coast far outweighs any trinkets we purchased at the resort.
Feeling lost doesn’t mean that you are not where you are called to be. It certainly doesn’t mean that God is not leading your journey. In fact, like Israel journeying to the Promised Land, the opposite might be the case. You may, in fact, be walking towards glorious blessing. So, if you are feeling lost, look for a sign of God’s presence. God is with you. God guides you. As you hold yourself open to God’s presence, you may just find yourself caught up in a miraculous display of provision or power.
Because, maybe, you are not as lost as you think you are.