It should have been a short trip – only 20 minutes.
Four days prior I had driven those same roads from the airport to the hotel. I’d scoped out the route online, printed a map and wrote the street names: Donnelson Pike to Highway 41A to Edmondson Pike to Old Hickory Boulevard.
With Tennesse’s great signage, it was no problem. Early Saturday morning all I needed to do was follow the same route in reverse.
The sun had just come up when I loaded the car and drove down the hill from the hotel, and headed to the airport.
The nonprofit I work with had just enjoyed an amazing conference, and my heart was full. Rejoicing. Confident in God’s good purposes for me during the past few days – and also during the past two years serving alongside this group of people who’d become my team.
Absorbing the beauty of the landscape, I said goodbye to this eastern state near the region of my birth… longing to stay, but accepting my current place of ministry in the west.
About 10 minutes into my trip I found myself stopping at four-way stop signs. After the third one I remembered, There were no four-way stop signs on my way to the hotel.
I looked at the street sign. Wallace Avenue.
How did I get here? I turned around and drove to the main intersection about a mile or two back. Still nothing looked familiar, and I couldn’t find the sign for Highway 41A, the next segment on my route.
An ambulance sat waiting at the light next to me, and I waved at the driver as my car window descended. When her window came down I asked, How do I get to Donnelson Pike and the airport?
She pointed and started telling me to go this way and turn, and then go that way and turn, and then turn again at…
Outwardly I smiled, but inwardly my spirit cringed. Her directions didn’t match mine. And I wanted to go back the same way. It was a simple route, one I’d prepared for in advance, one I had studied and proven and was familiar with.
I smiled again and thanked her; then turned right and prayed. Okay, God… I’m lost. And I have no idea where to go from here. Where’s Highway 41A?!?
Good thing I’d set my alarm with an extra 15 minutes – a minor detour, no problem. I still had plenty of time.
I looked for a fast food place where I could ask for directions again.
The first place wasn’t open. At the second place, cars waited at the drive thru and sat in the parking lot. I parked and went in.
How do I get to Donnelson Pike and the airport? I asked the girl behind the counter.
She looked at me, unsure. Then she asked a co-worker. He started with, Turn at the light and head that way and turn at…
Again, my mind refused. I showed him my trusty printed map. (No GPS for this ghost town gal who lives in a hole in the Central California Sierra foothills – long story.)
The customer in the line next to me asked where I was headed.
I told him, but his directions sounded too much like the others. I still resisted and pointed to my map.
I followed this route four days ago. I want to follow it again.
He was patient and explained a second time. Turn at the light onto Harding Place, he said. But Harding Place isn’t on my map, I insisted.
This time the Spirit whispered, Ignore your map and listen. It’s okay. I’ll get you there.
God was providing new directions from the unfamiliar spot of who knows where.
And I remembered something one of the workshop presenters had said the day before: We see Jesus in our past, but we fail to see Him in our future – in our next five minutes.
Why don’t we get it, that He’s there, too?
Yes, that’s right. Here with me now. Even in my stupid how-did-I-end-up-here mistake. In a 20-minute drive to the airport that was stretching into 40 minutes.
The guy had pulled out his phone. Have you ever heard of WAZE? He asked.
I hadn’t. He opened the app and a map appeared. Then he found the intersection where we stood and showed me the way to the airport. Although the road names weren’t on my map, they appeared to be the same ones the other two helpful Tennesseans had given me. And the route looked simple.
You’ll cross the 24 freeway and then Murfreesboro Pike, and you’ll turn on Donnelson Pike and there’s the airport.
I sighed again. It started to make sense.
Okay, great. Thank you, I smiled. Truly grateful, as I let go of my frustration.
He continued talking about the virtues of the app.
Yes, I’ll check it out, but now I really am late, and I really do need to get to the airport. I appreciate your help. Thanks again, I said as I walked out.
That morning when I left the hotel, in my next 20 minutes God was there. Just as He was in the next 20 minutes of getting lost on my way to the airport. When my humanity leaked and I got turned around, He knew exactly where I was and how to get me where I needed to go.
Once in my little rental car I headed northeast, mentally following the guy’s directions. And praying. Thankful. Hopeful. Trusting in God’s provision, even though it was different from what I’d experienced in the recent past.
I crossed the 24 freeway. Thank You, Father. Then sped through the intersection of Murfreesboro Pike, and breathed thanks again. I was on the right path. In a few more minutes I saw the sign for Donnelson Pike and the airport.
I looked at the clock, and knew I’d be on time. Again, I whispered, Thank You, Father.
At the airport I followed more signs, dropped off the car, and rolled my suitcase along as I headed on foot to the terminal. All the while thinking…
God was with me in my last 20 minutes. I see His fingerprints on my past, today, yesterday, last week, last year… and I’m relieved. Grateful. But I don’t see Him in my next 20 minutes – in the future segments of this earthly commodity called time –because I’m not there yet. And I’m unsure. Even apprehensive.
Will He be there, too? I wonder.
Yes, He will, because He’s there already. Because there is no time in the eternal realm, where my life is spread before Him all at once. Where He’s everywhere present, and the great I AM, the Everlasting Father, the Eternal One who is and who was and who will be forever and forever.
And I’m ashamed of the question, Will you be in my next 20 minutes, God?
When He’s only proven Himself reliable every time I’ve needed Him. Without fail. He’s in every minute of my every day of my entire life. Past, present, future, always.
Even when I lose my way…
when I don’t have my act together…
when I step out of His will thinking I know better…
when the rubble of broken dreams and shattered relationships lie in a cloud of dust at my feet…
when unexpected, unwelcome difficulties or conflicts stare me in the face…
even when my heart pounds and my hands tremble and the car windows steam up just a little as my pulse races, this body and mind unsure…
Once I found my place in the line at the ticket counter, I breathed relief again, heart and mind truly centered on how God was there in my next 20 minutes. And if I’d missed my plane, He’d be there, too. In that place, in whatever circumstance, there with me no matter what.
And I could rest in the knowing.