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Are You Really Lost?

On a Sunday afternoon last September, my husband, Eric, and I hopped into the car and headed off to Crossville, TN.  We planned to take five days for a couple’s retreat at the mountain resort. When you’re raising a large family, working in mission through the Church, and your husband is clergy, time away is essential. We both needed time spent in prayer to hear that still, small voice often missed amid busy schedules and the noise created by the world.

That Sunday had been so beautiful. Eric, as a newly ordained deacon, had the privilege of baptizing our first grandchild, Maria Christine, on the feast dedicated to her name’s sake, “The Holy Name of Mary”. (Nothing beats the smell of Chrism on a newly baptized baby!)

We had roughly a six and a half hour drive to our destination, and I spent most of it conversing with God about the blessings of the day, the blessings of being able to unplug for the next few days, and my gratitude for my family. Eric was busy listening to Catholic Radio as I prayed and journaled in my Metanoia Catholic Journal.

In my journaling my attention turned to a conversation I had been having with God for some time. He’d been asking me to head in a direction I was struggling with greatly.  The problem was that I could not see the outcome, and because of the uncertainty, I had been reluctant to take the first turn.  “What do you want from me God?  You know I have a hard time when I can’t see the outcome. How am I going to know if I am heading in the wrong direction?”

Outside it had grown dark and we were about an hour and half away from our destination. I remember looking at the GPS on the screen in our rental card and finding comfort seeing the familiar blue line highlighting the route to our destination. Seeing the destination gives such comfort when we’re traveling a road we’ve never traveled before. We want assurance before we proceed. We want to see the destination and to know it is attainable.

“In point two miles take a right on state route 200,” the GPS chimed. Eric turned the car and suddenly we went from a well-lit, four lane, highly traveled road to a very dark, winding, two lane mountain road. I mused to my husband that we were certainly in the “sticks” and that I expected Jeb and Granny Clampett to pass us at any minute. Twenty-eight minutes passed with only one car passing us from the other direction. The road had an eerie, lonely feeling to it.

As my husband navigated the very sharp and winding turns, I began to question where the GPS was taking us. He commented he was glad he no longer had vertigo because this would certainly make him sick.

Just as I was getting ready to ask him how long we were going to be on this road, he looked up and noted that the GPS was no longer changing. It had been showing we should turn right and continue route 200 for the last 15 minutes. This was not the news a “nervous Nelly” with control issues like me wanted to hear.  I hate being plunged into situations of uncertainty, and vulnerability. Surprises are certainly not my gig. (Hey, I’m a work in progress. I admit it!) God has been consistent in finding ways to take me out of my comfort zone and this was certainly one of them. My heart began to sink, and I started to get nervous. Eric noticed my grip tightening on the arm rest and said something about the GPS would change any minute. But it didn’t. The familiar blue line highlighting the way to our destination suddenly disappeared and our cell phones were showing no service. I found myself sitting in that familiar anxiety that surfaces every time I find myself faced with the unknown.

Truly reason does not live in this space of anxiety. My mind raced like that of a wild woman.  Silly thoughts like”‘If we break down, we won’t be able to get any help”, “We are not going to know where to turn”, “This road is taking us deeper into the unknown”, “We should have bought an atlas”,  “We are vulnerable”, “We are alone”, “We are lost” began to race through my mind. Every horror movie I had seen as a teenager flashed before my eyes.

I told Eric about my anxiety. The road was so eerie and, in some places, a low fog was setting in. I told Eric that in the pit of my stomach I had the same feeling that one could expect when Jason from “ Friday the Thirteenth” jumped out from the woods onto the front of the car. “Seriously Maggie, where is your trust,” he answered.  

I know, I know but situations like this are always hard for me. I want assurances.

“Maggie, this road will end somewhere. As long as it does not become a dirt road, I am not concerned.” Eric said. Not helpful, because no sooner did he say that we came to a fork in the road that looked like it ended at a dirt road. “Some sense of humor Lord.” I thought.  

Suddenly we heard the soft whisper of the GPS say, “In point three miles turn left on Highway 127.” The illuminating line had not come back, and we still had no signal. But the GPS was still gently guiding us to our destination. We turned in faith each time the GPS directed us to. We trusted it still had the memory of our destination.

After an hour and fifteen minutes we turned on to a more traveled road and the familiar illuminating blue line came back, cell service was restored, and our destination became visible once again on the map. Despite my anxiety of becoming the next “lost in the wilderness for days” story gone viral on Facebook or the next victims in a modern version of “Chainsaw Massacre,” we made it to our destination safe, sound, and within reasonable time.  

Even though I couldn’t see the end, God could. He was with us all along!

Seriously though, isn’t this what God does with us sometimes? He does not always show us the end when he asks something from us. He asks us to simply start. To trust. Mother Angelica would often speak about the need for this trust in God’s providence. If God asked her to start, she did. He did not always show her the how or even the why. Just start…

Mother Angelica ordered a $650K satellite dish for EWTN without knowing how God intended her to pay for it. When the truck showed up with the satellite, Mother retreated to the Chapel to pray. Suddenly a sister came in to inform her of a call she felt was urgent enough to interrupt a conversation with Jesus. On the other end was a man on the phone who had heard of her work and wanted to donate $650k to help her. How’s that for God’s Divine Providence?

In John 14:27 Christ tells us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Even though we cannot see the outcome – He can. We need to have faith and listen to that still, small voice guiding us. Just start.  

My favorite Mother Angelica quote is, “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”

So, through prayer and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’ve replaced that anxiety with courage and today I am just starting… one foot in the air, one foot on the ground, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.

The feelings in my body are the same: racing heart, queasy feeling in the stomach, rapid breath… the difference comes in the thoughts in my mind.  Instead of thoughts centered in fear in uncertainty they have switched to anticipation, hope and curiosity. I can’t wait to see what God has in store during this next chapter.