It all started with a wrong turn outside the Valley Plaza.
It was 1976, and my mother had not been driving long. This was our first venture beyond the local grocery, school and church. Valley Plaza, our city’s mall, was on the opposite side of Bakersfield from our home. We took California Highway 58 West and merged with California 99 South and within minutes we saw the Valley Plaza signs, exited the highway and pulled straight into the parking lot. Mom hustled us through the mall purchasing school clothes. After hours of looking, fitting, walking and buying she treated us to an Orange Julius and we piled back into the Buick to head home.
Mom was nervous. She wasn’t sure how to get back on the Highway, having never driven it herself. She read her directions and looked around frantically for a sign to get her on track. Being a typically helpful know-it-all eight-year-old, I searched too. Then I saw a familiar sight.
“Look, Mommy, it’s Skaggs!” I exclaimed, distracting her. We shopped at Skaggs Drugstore all the time, and there it was. “We’re almost home.”
"Debbie, that isn’t our Skaggs. Now please, just let me think.”
A few minutes later, Mom found what she was looking for -- California Highway 99. Unfortunately, she failed to note that she was heading south, toward Los Angeles, rather than north, toward Highway 58.
What should have been a fifteen-minute drive across town turned into a half hour excursion into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Finally, Mom was able to exit, turn around and retrace her drive to get us home.
I thought the whole thing was a grand adventure. I loved the mountains and never doubted we would eventually get home. My mother was truly frightened. She wasn’t so sure she’d get us home. My five-year-old brother was scarred for years.
The next summer my family loaded the Buick to visit Nanny and Paw Paw in Colorado. We rode hundreds of miles through flat farmland peppered with very similar windmills. My brother was convinced we were driving in circles and would NEVER get to Colorado. Of course, coming from a family of jokesters my brother was encouraged in this belief by me and my father. We provoked him to tears before we finally reached the Rockies and the game forcibly ended. This happened year after year until Jimmy was old enough to understand a map.
Sometimes, like Jimmy, I feel my life is going in circles. I struggle with the same sin or problem repeatedly until I am provoked to tears. I cry out to God, “Why am I still circling in the desert? Can’t we take a shortcut?”
I am deceived. Like my brother, I see the familiar landscape and think it means I am making no progress. The enemy taunts me as we teased Jimmy. “Look Debbie, here you are again. You aren’t getting anywhere. Why don’t you just quit?” But surely, steadily, my Father is circling me forward. Many of my past sins are so far away from me now they don’t seem like they were ever part of my life. Others loom before me as the mighty Rockies loomed before my family on the way to Denver. I don’t always understand God’s ways -- why He delivers me completely in some areas and leaves me to struggle with others -- but I know He has His reasons and that they are good. Good for me, good for others and good for His name on Earth.
I am on this road trip with my Father. I trust Him to get me where He wants me to go. If He chooses the scenic route, who am I to argue? This thirty-eight-year-old woman is no know-it-all. God doesn’t need my help!
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Debbie O'Connor lives just north of New Orleans with her husband, Jim, and their two children. Jesus has been her savior for 18 years. Contact Debbie at email@example.com.