This past weekend was absolutely beautiful and a perfect time to head up to North Carolina in the United States to visit my folks. Though our trips are always a nice change of pace from the normal routine of work and homeschooling and also an opportunity to spend more time with my mom and dad, this trip we also went to tackle some big projects.
One of the main tasks slated for the visit was to go to their lake property (located in an adjacent county) to move an old, non-working ski boat out of their boat house and transport it back to their home so it can be donated to charity… a process that required two 4 wheel drive vehicles, a second boat, 6 able bodies, at least 4 licensed drivers and access to a near-by takeout point on the lake. Believing that all the pieces were in place, we embarked on the mission… that is, until we got to the lake. The take out point we intended to use (and had used on and off for over four decades) is located three lots down, but on private property. A group of 20-somethings were using their parent’s lake house for the day and denied us access. No matter how persuasive we tried to be, they wouldn’t budge!
This seemingly insensitive action on the part of our neighbors caused an unexpected complication, creating an unplanned delay in our well laid out schedule. I mean, since all our ‘helpers’ were from out of town, we only had one day to accomplish the task, and the clock was running…. So, instead of using the ramp that was walking distance from my parent’s place, my brother, Bryan and my husband, Clif, were forced to drive 30 minutes to the other side of the lake to beg for use of the ramp at a local private boating club. After a reluctant and very conditional ‘yes’ from the manager, they drove back to the house to get the second boat, returned to the boat club and put it in the water so Bryan could pilot the boat to our pier and tow our old girl back across High Rock Lake one last time.
Once the non-working boat was lowered into the water (with its trailer strapped to the underside), the trip back across to the boat club only took a few minutes. Feeling a bit like trespassers at a garden party, we quickly hooked the trailers up and pulled both boats back to the other side off the lake, 30 minutes away. In our minds, this convoluted ordeal could have been so much easier if only our neighbors had been a little more…. well, uh… neighborly!
But my opinion about that all changed when we heard an unusual noise as the second boat was pulled into the driveway. A quick survey of the trailer revealed a narrowly avoided disaster. All five of the lug nuts for the left side wheel rim had jiggled loose and fallen off, leaving the tire precariously dancing on the hub for who knows how many miles! Just use your imagination to come up with the catastrophes that could have happened if we had attempted to pull that trailer back to their home on the interstate at highway speeds! Once this realization sank in a little, and as Clif and Bryan fumed over how to fix the mess, I was suddenly grateful for the neighbor’s stubborn unwillingness to let us use their ramp. I’m convinced the shorter trip back from the boat club gave us time to catch the problem with the wheel and correct it before we made the longer trip home.
You know, the lesson believers can all learn from this is that we need to cultivate the ability to look beyond our immediate disappointments and trust that God often has something bigger in mind. He doesn’t send detours just to disappoint us or cause us to waste time. His interruptions to our thoughtfully planned routes are often designed for our safety, and so with a protective purpose in mind, He sometimes frustrates our plans in order to send us around a potential threat. Not perceiving that the hand of God might be involved, we quickly become irritated and disappointed over the delay without ever considering the roadblock might be His safeguard in disguise and an expression of His deep love and concern for us.
The Apostle Paul understood this concept when he wrote to the Philippian church giving his unusual perspective on his prison sentence. “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil 1:12-14)
Though it almost certainly wasn’t what he’d planned, Paul looked a little deeper and saw two benefits to his captivity. Firstly, he was able to share the truth of the Gospel with the soldiers who were guarding him. Secondly, as he was prevented from visiting the churches to teach in person, new leaders stepped up to preach in his absence, developing the next wave of elders to pass the faith along. Prison was a detour, even a disappointment and maybe even frustrating for Paul, but instead of derailing his task, it ended up being an unexpected avenue to advance God’s goal.
The same is probably true of many of our heart breaks and setbacks. But when we allow ourselves to get so caught up in the emotional trauma of unexpected circumstances, we are unable to see clearly enough to realize that there is often something more complex working behind the scenes and we miss the fact that a better – and more beneficial- plan might actually be unfolding before us that will help us get home safely after all.
As for God, His way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
He shields all who take refuge in Him.