I am seventeen years old, in a fire-engine red Fiero, and blazing the highway to a friends house over 40 minutes away. I keep in mind each instruction my mom gave me on our test run days before. I have no map and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it. (These were the days before GPS.) With windows open and a confident outlook, I look forward to my arrival with great anticipation. I turn up the music loud. Road signs shout at me while I pass them by in a blur.
The trip that began over 40 minutes ago, has not come to an end. I look around, as the traffic grows thicker all around me. Seeing a sign for an upcoming oasis, I make my plan and drive up the ramp exiting the congested highway. I am greeted by a sign that announces I am at the “O’Hare Oasis”. I swallow hard and panic sets in. I don’t know how I’ve gotten here or how I’ve missed my exit, but I have. Finding a quarter in my pocket, I enter the building and make a call to my friend. (This was before cell phones) I take the directions without a pen or paper and rely on my memory to get me back onto the highway to resume my trek back to New Lenox. (Yes, it was a very bad idea.) Day turns quickly into dusk and the thick traffic quickly thins. Dusk fades to night and the black trees soon blend with the molasses sky. One hour turns to two, to three, then four. Where am I? Pulling onto a ramp, I vulnerably pump gas and enter the gas station teary eyed. I have no money left after filling up the Fiero’s tank with the $5.00 I brought with me. I’m very lost. After making a second humiliating call to my friend, he and his parents tell me to stay put and that they are coming to get me. The gas-station attendant takes another look at me, pulls up a chair, and she talks to me for 3 hours until they arrive. In contrast, it is a very silent ride all of the way home. As the hours pass, I stare up at the stars and the moon, thanking God for His watch over me. Later, due to our new relationship, my new step-dad doesn’t believe my mistake is innocent. He is so angry that he bowls a perfect 300 game. I am grounded from driving his car.
Now reflecting on these memories, I feel a wave of regret. I flew so fast in that car and passed sign after sign that could have lead me home or got me back on track to my destination. I overlooked the early markers and distracted myself until I was so far off course that I had no idea how I got there. I put myself in one dangerous and vulnerable situation after another. Amazingly, I had no idea. I didn’t have a map to read, a cell phone to communicate, or a written plan. Why was I even on the road heading anywhere so ill-equipped and alone? My determination was blinding. After all was said and done, I selfishly cared more about my goals and losses more than everyone else’s sacrifice, stress, or inconvenience. Ultimately, in my lack of attentiveness to the signs and the details, I failed to clearly see my need. I needed a rescue of another kind. If only I would have seen the signs through my blurred vision. If only I would have stopped and really saw and heard the message that God had sent to me again and again that said; “Your family loves you, you’re headed in the wrong direction, stop looking for your significance in everything but Me. Come home.“
“Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.” Matthew 18:12-14 (The Message)