As seen in Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly (Spring 2016)
Reprinted with Permission
Uh oh! Looking into my rearview mirror, I watched the motorcycle, lights flashing, slip in behind me. Seconds earlier I’d caught sight of the radar gun but thought nothing of it. I was only going fifty-five, not even my usual “four over.” I was actually keeping pace with six other cars on my way to the airport and, together with my in-laws, I wouldn’t have thought to speed.
I pulled over to the shoulder, stopped, and grabbed my license and the car’s registration. My father-in-law looked out the back window. “Would you like me to speak with him? Perhaps if he knew we had a flight to catch…”
My father-in-law was worried. This seemingly minor stop posed a not-so-minor threat to our travel plans. I interjected quickly, “I’m not exactly sure what this is all about. Let’s see what he has to say. Don’t worry. We’ve still got plenty of time to get to the airport.”
I took a deep breath and rolled down my window. “Good morning, sir.”
From behind dark sunglasses, the officer couched down and began, “Were you aware that you were going 55 in a 40?”
A 40 MPH zone?
“You’re actually in a construction zone.”
A construction zone? I looked around. Orange barrels lined the highway, had lined the highway for miles. I flinched. I should’ve known better. Orange barrels were an everyday occurrence in the greater Seattle area. There’d been orange signs asking us to GIVE ‘EM A BRAKE and PREPARE TO STOP. But I’d missed the signs.
Speed and inattention are stubborn themes in my life. Too often I’ve had my foot on the accelerator, speeding to my destination, not watching for signs, not looking for changes.
Two years ago, my son Kevin got married as the sun set over the waters of Alki Beach in West Seattle. Again I found myself navigating a construction zone. Orange barrels lined the road. In the confusion, our limo driver missed the turn and not surprisingly, I started to fret. We were going to be late.
Focused on the time, I didn’t see that the extra minutes were giving Manoela and her girlfriends time to laugh and be together. Kevin and the guys were hanging out on the pier. When we finally gathered for the wedding, the guys were relaxed, the girls happy. We came together in the coolness of a late summer evening, the splash of an incoming tide serenading Kevin and Manoela, an old dock supporting new love.
After the ceremony, we celebrated at the restaurant next door. Waiting for our meal, I was back on the accelerator. Our dinner for seventeen had become a three-hour soiree. Anxious about the incredibly long time between our salads and the main course, my mind raced: What’s taking so long? Why the delay? Where’s our server? Who’s in charge here? Is that my steak sitting all by itself on a serving tray getting cold?
I was speeding through a beautiful construction zone when it hit me. Looking around the table, candlelight illuminating my son and his new wife’ s happiness, I heard it. Deanna, slow down—now! You’re in no rush. Really! No rush! You’re celebrating your son’s marriage. You’ve got time. You’ve got the entire evening. That wee small voide. I knew God was trying to get my focus back where it needed to be. Finally, I pulled up on the gas pedal and found the brakes. I settled back into my seat, looked around the table, and smiled. Yes, my son was married! Today would forever mark a beautiful milestone.
Leaving the restaurant hours later, we looked around at the vacated room. Our waitress was setting up for the next day’s lunch; the hostess was grabbing a vacuum. Walking out, Kevin asked, “Mom, did dinner take a really long time?”
“Yes, Kevin, it did. But it was okay. It gave us more time to be together. Tonight was all about you and Manoela. We were in no rush.”
No rush. I’d need to slow down. Kevin’s wedding was changing our family, changes I’d miss if I didn’t focus on the right things.
The Israelites had to focus on the right things, too. Before they entered the Promised Land, God spoke with their new leader Joshua on the side of the road, not to cite him, but to give him encouragement and exhortation. “Joshua, I will always be with you. Be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged. I am the Lord your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Finally! After a long and arduous trek through the wilderness, they were almost there! But nearing the Promised Land, God knew the people would need to stay alert and focused. In this particular construction zone, there’d be no orange barrels lining the road, just a divine Flagger alerting them to the important changes ahead. The end of their journey marked an important milestone. “Proceed with caution,” God exhorted.
The Israelites’ journey would continue, not just to the Promised Land, but through the Promised Land—and God would be with them.
Milestones often identify times of change, difficult times and messy times, some planned and others not, some that surprise us and others that leave us feeling unsettled and uncomfortable. Some milestones, like weddings, are easier to embrace. Others are harder. In our travels with God, we might miss an exit, speed through an event, but God promises to be with us. God gives us confidence and encouragement as we move forward with Him. And when we’re going too fast, when we miss the signs, God gets us refocused.
In a favorite children’s book, Pooh asks Piglet, “What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaks Piglet.
“My favorite day,” says Pooh.
When my sons were small, a rainy day was often their favorite. At the end of our driveway was a section of asphalt outlined in orange paint, a dip identified by the city for repair, but in the meantime, a dip that created the most marvelous puddle for two little boys when it rained. In the middle of a cloud burst, Kyle and Kevin would pull on their boots, strap on bicycle helmets, and peddle with abandon through the waters of their imagination. Covered in rain, dripping in mud, Kevin would stop, turn his bike, and cry out, “Again!”
Two little boys just having the time of their lives. You and I may not be able to peddle with abandon through life’s confusing and complicated construction zones, but we can learn to smile at the orange signs and celebrate the milestones in life, the big ones and the muddy one—because God is with us wherever we are and wherever we’re going.