How often do we give up before finishing something important? How often do we lose hope in the midst of trying? In my first pastoral charge in Alberta, I was told, “The second point is 25 miles north, through the Battle River Valley on the road to Lloydminster . . . and watch your driving because the gumbo is like driving in bottomless mud.”
So the second day of my new duties, I decided to visit the northern congregation. I had an old 1975 4-door Pontiac that I discovered later, travelled just as well through fields to make pastoral calls, as it did on muddy roads.
On that particular day, I took the elder’s directions and drove further and further north. I met a farmer driving his tractor on a road on which he said later, he'd never seen a car on it before. So you can tell I got slightly off the beaten path. Any way, back on the main road, I went as far as I thought I should while having some fear of getting lost under that big sky.
I remember stopping the car, getting out and looking over the vast fields. With no trees as I remembered in Ontario, I could literally see for miles. Off in the distance, east to where I was standing, I saw three grain elevators. Now that should have given me a clue that I was close to my destination. (I was soon to learn that every little town had its own grain elevators.) But, east? I decided this could not be a town. After all, I'd been told to go north.
So, I turned back, at times my front bumper pushing the soft mud to open the way. As I looked down at my brown heeled shoes, I reminded myself that I was not in the city now, and if I got stuck, I'd surely have to walk back in my bare feet. When I got into town, one of the elders visited me and asked how I found the folks over the valley. I told him about my journey and that I didn't find the town. “Other than a few ranchers working in their fields, I only saw grain elevators to the east.” He looked at me and laughed. Then he said, "And you didn't go far enough to see the sign to turn to Paradise Valley?”
I’ve always been a cautious person, and I admit that too often I’ve missed the signs. Sometimes I think we make life a lot more difficult that it is. Is it a fear of investing too much time and energy and then having to turn back anyway? Maybe it’s because we’re not willing to risk certain areas of life. Or, possibly having it in our minds how things should be or what they must look like, limits our willingness to live in hope of how they could be. Writing personal experiences can fall into this category too. It can be very intimidating and sometimes easier just to put them in our top drawer and leave them there. This Mother’s Day, I submitted an article to Christianity.ca that I’d been revising for fifteen years. I’m glad I kept going and didn’t turn around.
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