A few years ago my wife Wanda and I enjoyed a wonderful, restful time together in Europe. Centuries-old castles in Germany, panoramic mountain views in Austria, and a lazy afternoon along the canals of Venice were among the highlights of our visit. Because there are few conversations as boring as listening to someone else drone on about his vacation, I’ll spare the details… except to say that one particular day of that vacation was anything but restful.
It all began after I had preached one evening in the city of Nuremburg, Germany. We were scheduled to stay that night at a quaint inn about an hour’s drive away. No problem. I had a rental car, a map, and a somewhat good sense of direction. What could possibly go wrong?
FOG. That’s what. And not that wispy kind that merely dampens one’s spirit or cues the desire for a hot cup of tea. No, this was pea soup fog-—heavy, thick, and blanketing our entire intended journey.
When we finally—and thankfully—arrived at our inn that night, I was a bundle of nerves. That one-hour trip had become a three-hour marathon of bleary eye rubbing, steering wheel gripping, fingernail biting, curves and swerves along the unfamiliar fog-filled roads.
In recent months, our journey has been figuratively re-traveling that foggy road. And although I am confident that our road is on the larger map of God’s will, I must admit feeling some of the same anxieties I felt on that German road years ago. In spite of these feelings, the lessons I am learning on this foggy road have both encouraged my spirit and increased my understanding. Here are a few I’ve learned:
The foggy road has caused me to slow down.
Limited visibility and an unfamiliar road can be a dangerous combination. I found myself driving well below the speed limit on those narrow Bavarian roads that night. Anyone that has driven with me knows that I am rarely on that side of the speed limit!
During these days of seeking God’s specific will for our next ministry destination, I have given much more time to reflection and contemplation. I’m learning to be more deliberate as I navigate this journey. Reading, praying, and thinking dominate my discretionary time. I certainly don’t want to endanger myself or, more importantly, the other passengers in my vehicle by recklessly speeding ahead.
The foggy road has caused me to intensely focus.
If there is one word that has emerged in my thinking more than any other over the past few months, it is the word simplify. As I navigated that fog-filled road years ago, I gave little attention to the scenery along the way. As beautiful as Southern Germany is, my focus was upon nothing else but making the right turns and staying on the right road!
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the scenic rest stops and appealing attractions along life’s journey, but I’m convinced that the Lord obscures them at times in order for us to re-calibrate what’s really important on our journey. For me, the simplification process has caused me to realize more poignantly than ever before that my life is to be lived for the glory of Jesus Christ. I do that best by fulfilling His call to passionately teach/preach the Bible and to genuinely express love to the people He places in my path.
The foggy road has helped me to stay in the moment.
High beams don’t work well in the fog. In fact, they exacerbate the cloudiness and make driving even more precarious. Foggy roads call for low beam headlights. It is the “lamp unto our feet” that the Word of God must be in times of murkiness.
I suppose all of us would like for God to supply more clarity about our future, but often He does not. Stepping into Jordan or walking on the stormy waters or traversing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death are times to concentrate on individual footsteps, not on upcoming mile markers.
The foggy road has humbled me.
No one likes to say, “I don’t know.” As the adage goes, “Knowledge is power.” And without knowledge, we feel powerless. Driving the narrow roads of rural Germany on a foggy night without a GPS or the ability to read the foreign language road signs was a bit disconcerting. Although the experience humbled me enough to actually be willing to ask for directions, I was powerless to do so without even a basic understanding of the language!
On the foggy road I now travel, people often ask me, “So what are you doing? Where are you going? What are your plans?” Good questions. I wish I knew. This is what I do know: I’m moving forward slowly, watching the road carefully, keeping the low beams on, and waiting for the fog to lift.