My earliest memories center on a journey. I like to imagine that in the era of my toddlerhood (and before my sister was born), my parents were avid road-trippers. I’ve heard stories of camping trips, seen slides (yes, slides) of my mother in a blue two-piece bathing suit, perched in a canoe with me in a diaper, no shirt, and a smile. And I have this image, these moving pictures of birch trees like a canopy, passing over us as we venture deeper into some sort of forest. No sound, no smell, just the blur of green leaves and white bark and the feeling of being safe, loved, and going on an adventure.
Those days, like the memories, are bound to fade, and at some point they were replaced by a different image: a dark night, a country road, and a Dead End sign.
This was my first exposure to the Dead End, and I was terrified. Like, hiding on the foot of the car with a pillow over my head scared out of my mind. Since I had the ability to read, I’m assuming I was school-aged, a proud big sister, and already a pro at these trips. But this was one step too far for my tender head. I was sure we were about to meet a fiery death or a cliff’s edge.
Whatever a dead end was, I did NOT want to experience it.
Of course, we didn’t die. We arrived at our destination and eventually, safely back home. And I learned that dead ends likely won’t result in death, but merely in the end of one road, and if we look close enough, the beginning of another.
In Ireland, a dead end is called a cul-de-sac, which implies a lot more fun than death. This is where the neighbourhood kids gather with their soccer nets, where you find extra parking for the New Year’s party, where you can turn around when you get lost in a maze of identical houses.
It’s fair to say I’ve found myself in a spiritual cul-de-sac a time or two. Diverted or distracted, lost in the neighbourhood of doubt. I’m prone to bouts of wandering, existential wondering, worry and unease. And at times I’ve wondered if this was The Dead End, my relationship with Christ gone silent, the connection dropped.
Even in the silence, when faced with the end of one road and unsure where the next one began, I know now that He was still there. He was there at that dead end on a Wisconsin camping trip, and there at the end of my parent’s marriage. He was there at the dead end of my sanity, and there at the turning point, the opening, the quiet voice amongst the existential chaos.
He was there when we found ourselves stuck in every virtual cul-de-sac imaginable, there when the pregnancy ended, there when the money ran out, there when all road signs were question marks.
We’ve never journeyed alone. When the next bypass or indecipherable road sign comes, He’ll be there, too, to guide us home.
Even now, I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that our Irish journeys don’t always take us exactly where we need to go, at least not very efficiently. Streets don’t always run straight here, and roundabouts slingshot us in every which direction if we aren’t paying attention.
But there are no dead ends here.
Instead, there is only chance after chance to find Him – and our way – again.
Where have you lost your way? Where has God found – and led – you, recently? And if you’re at a dead end, how can we pray for you?
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