“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”Proverbs 16:9 ESV
I’ve been down this road before. An empty highway, way out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between Dallas and Amarillo. I knew it immediately by the one landmark: The Pecan Shack.
My eyes remained glued on the little glorified gas station that sells pecans and pecan pies and pecan butter and cane-sugar Dr. Pepper. It was the same as before – except, it wasn’t raining quite so hard.
It was dark and stormy when my mother and I stopped there five years before.
Five long years before… every earthly possession was stuffed into my pearly white Grand Jeep Cherokee.
Our destination was Virginia.
It was all lined up so nicely. A great scholarship. A job working as the assistant to the dean of the school. An apartment. A close friend as a housemate.
Oh yes, it was all lined up so nicely. (You can tell where this is going, right?)
It had been a wonderful road-trip, up until the Pecan Shack. We’d taken our time, strolling leasurely through Arizona and New Mexico, taking in the Navajo Fry Bread, snapping pics at National Crater, and stopping at greasy dives along Route 66. And then we hit Texas and the Pecan Shack and the storm broke.
Thunder and lightening chased us east. In Tennasee, as the roads flooded, we got the call that my father was going in for emergency surgury and the rest is history: We left the Jeep in Tenassee – I got it back, which is a long story for another time – and caught the first flight back to LAX.
Some journeys are not meant to be completed. Some roads are not meant to be travelled on.
But then, five years later, you find yourself driving your sister across the country to Colorado because she is getting married. She’s asleep in the passenger seat and you are listening to the radio and you pass the Pecan Shack. Your breath catches in your throat and you can’t breathe for a moment. You don’t really know why. Except you do – you’ve been down this road before.
I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you,Proverbs 32:8-9 TPT
instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life.
I will advise you along the way
and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn
when I take you where you’ve not been before.
Don’t make me tug you and pull you along.
Just come with me!”
On the flat plains of West Texas, the land my grandfather was born on, the onslaught of the enemy came fast and furious, throwing my deepest doubts and fears in my face before I could reach the safety of the cellar. Before I knew it, I was up in the air, whirling around and around in the tornado of shame and the pain of lost dreams.
What have you to show for the last five years?
You haven’t made any progress.
You haven’t just not made progress, you’ve gone backwards.
“Gone backwards?” I repeated, looking at the Pecan Shack whizing past. It was true, I was driving the opposite direction. I was literally going backwards.
And then the Lord spoke: Sometimes to go forwards, I’ll take you backwards.
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.”Luke 9:23-27 MSG
God does not think like us. To Him, time and direction are irrelevant. He’ll take us backwards to move us forwards. He’ll turn us upside down to set us upright. He’ll take everything away to give us everything. He’ll shake up our nice little plans and say, “Become like a child. Trust me.”
There are a myriad of reasons to account for the times when we do not make it to our intended destination.
We make mistakes.
We take the wrong road.
Sometimes we get directionally mixed up and misread the signs or the map.
Sometimes, other people’s mistakes put up roadblocks and God has to re-route us.
But sometimes, we do not make it to our intended destination because it is not God’s intended destination. Sometimes, he has a completely different plan in mind.
“God will lead His ‘blind’ people along an unknown path, one never seen before. He will make their dark mystery bright with light, and smooth their difficult road. He will straighten every crooked thing in front of them so they can move forward without fear, they will never be forsaken.”Isaiah 42:17 TPT
Has His plan been my plan worked out the way I thought it would? No. Certainly,not. Has it been harder than I expected? Definitely. Does it feel like I am going backwards? Sometimes.
Maybe… in the world’s eyes, anyways.
But my Father in Heaven speaks a different word: He says, keep going the way I’m leading you. Keep trusting me. I’ll get you where you need to be when you need to be there. I will block every road you are not to go down and open up the right road so wide and clear you WILL NOT MISS IT.
There are plenty of distractions on the way to get us off course or tempt us to re-route on our own without Holy Spirit. We all have Pecan Shacks in our past that draw our attention inward and spread lies that God has not led us well. Face the Pecan Shack for what it is: A Lie. And then, keep your eye on the road.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
Nothing surprises Him.
He will, if we trust Him, consistently lead us on the paths of righteousness, for His namesake (Psalm 23).