Road Trip – Rest Stops and Miles. Peaks and Valleys.

Isaiah 46:4 “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

The road of faith became up-close and personal for me when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, took her own life.

The scene of finding her and seeing the horror yet hoping for signs of life, then by the grace of God, having the presence of mind to deal with the aftermath.

Coping with her loss and then adding her tragic death to the list of suicides and deaths that had plagued my family, pushed my faith and belief system to a point that I could never have imagined.

Through it all, I’ve gripped onto that faith to the point where the knuckles of my soul are white and my hands ache. I’ve held on because I know life depends on it, and there is promise and hope in the wisdom of God.

Since that day in May 2015, I’ve leaned into God with one simple prayer; “Father, hold me and heal me. Speak to me and help me understand.”

The day Elizabeth passed on into the realm of eternity, I was confronted with a new reality that I had to reconcile with. The reality of my daughter being on a plane of existence that so many of us have only read about in the Bible and heard about on Sunday mornings.

Sure, I’ve lost other loved ones tragically, but this time it was different. This is my little girl. My hunger for understanding became insatiable and the burning desire, for the story of my life to be shared, became an unquenchable fire.

Over the course of the past year and a half, God has taken my broken heart and wounded soul by the hand and walked close with me. I’ve begun to see things from a whole new perspective.

The pain and graphic nature of my loss was the force that caused me to see truths and insights that are staring us all right in the face, yet we miss the clues all the time because our senses have become dulled by the routines and distractions of the physical life.

The cacophony of our 21st century culture has placed a haze over the eyes of our soul and we end up in a state of spiritual atrophy, half-heartedly waiting for the second coming of Christ or our own moment of crossing into the sweet by and by.

As I started to see a distinct pattern to how this journey has been laid out, a picture started to form. When I took the time to intentionally reflect on all that has transpired, I became reminded of my many travels and trips on the road.

Now I’ve taken a lot of road trips. I’m not talking about the little ones where I’m on the road for a couple of hours; I’m talking about road trips where I’ve driven over 2600 miles, round trip.

Folks who have also driven for long distances can relate to the nuances and similarities between a road trip in a vehicle and the journey of life.

Imagine with me for a moment: You drive outside of the city limits and into the countryside where the population becomes sparse. There are times when it seems to be endless miles between the next rest stop.

You look at the gas gauge. It reads over half empty and it seems like a hundred miles since the last fuel station…and there are no signs of one coming up anytime soon.

It’s cold, dark and raining out…or maybe it’s blistering hot and high noon. Regardless of the weather and time of day, this is not a comfortable place to be in and you could really use a break.

Your eyes are tired, your back aches and your legs are cramped.

Suddenly you see a sign in the distance and glimmer of light on the horizon.  You wonder if this is the oasis you’ve been waiting for.

You drive closer and closer, leaning forward and squinting; hoping that this is it and not just another obnoxious billboard advertisement with cartoon characters and goofy writing.

Ah yes…relief…this is indeed it. You pull off the highway and recognize the familiar and welcoming sight of 18 wheelers lined up in formation. The rumble and smell of diesel engines act as a welcoming committee as if to say “Go ahead weary traveler…take a break…stretch out…have some refreshment…recharge yourself before you get back on the road”.

As I continue this road trip of faith and trust in God, I’ve come to understand that it is a journey consisting of peaks and valleys. Rest stops with stretches of road in between…some longer than others.

They come in seasons. Throughout this journey of healing from my daughters passing, I’ve witnessed mountain top moments with God. These are times when refreshment and encouragement are poured out.

These peaks are when the breakthroughs are experienced and divine favor is shown. They are rest stops for refueling and recharging. A chance to get renewed before hitting the pavement again.

They come in spurts…cyclic and rhythmic, but the space between the rest stops can’t be measured with a precise cadence and drumbeat. The peaks do not arrive with the precision of a ticking clock.

Instead, the period of time between our rest stops is set according to a divine chronometer on which there is no such thing as hours, minutes and seconds. Rather this heavenly time piece utilizes personal growth and milestones of internal development as the units of measurement.

Trust and obedience in God and His will are the key elements to driving through these valleys. If approached with the right attitude and presence of mind, the valley will be a time of learning and hearing intimate truths from God.

I’ve seen that the valley is not a place of desolation from God; it is a place of solitude with God.

The valley is not a place of deafness; it is a place of quiet where we can hear God’s voice.

The valley is not a place of destruction; it is a place of dependence upon God’s strength and wisdom.

God will use the time in the valley, to develop in us the quality and character of Jesus. It is during these long stretches of road where we are refined and molded.

As each mile marker goes by and we wonder how long until the next peak and rest stop, we must be intentional and mindful to surrender and accept the fact that the next break and refreshment will come in His time…not ours…but it will come. Always does.

God has already set and appointed the divine connections and encounters to propel us toward our Kingdom purpose and destiny. These are in the peaks and rest stops.

Our Father does not want us to be nagging kids in the back seat kicking, fussing and asking “are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet”.

Actually, God wants us to sit up front and take an active role in the journey.

In fact, He wants us in the driver’s seat, hands at 2 & 10, buckled up and ready to do three things: Trust, Obey and Drive. That’s it.

He’s got the map. He knows every detour, every pot hole, every wreck, every delay, and every traffic jam.

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