A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to go for a drive in the fall weather to do some leaf peeping like we usually do around our anniversary. While there were occasional spectacles of color clothing a few trees, the color wasn’t quite there yet and lots of trees just were beginning to enter their fall attire. So I decided to get us lost. I turned off of the old familiar highway somewhere between home and Hannibal, Missouri and we began to explore what was along the gravel roads that we had never traveled before.

We drove on and on, seeing old abandoned buildings that were once splendid but now were just too far off the path and aged to be inhabited now. We saw houses with people in the yard wondering just who we were and why we were there. I’m glad I didn’t have to answer them. I didn’t really know why we were there.

The feeling of being completely away from known landmarks and the roads that are so familiar is fun for me. It is a tiny taste of what the people that first mapped this land experienced. I turned onto one road after another and soon lost my bearings completely. I didn’t know what direction I was going or where I might end up.

I finally gave in and turned right onto a paved road. It was a small paved road so I still had no clue where I was. I was beginning to anticipate seeing that first road sign that gave me some sort of hint where we may have gone.

Then the paved road ended at an intersection where it met a highway. There was a sign that showed a bigger highway each direction and I turned left and in a few miles I popped out on old familiar ground.

We were all done being lost so we went to the grocery store and then to Walmart. It didn’t take long in the Walmart before some guy was making a show of his whining and complaining, making me wish I was still lost. I was tempted to tell him to get lost but he was big and in a bad mood and might have helped me take a flying leap if I had done so.

In truth, I wasn’t actually lost. I knew what was in each direction. I could find familiarity if I needed to do it. I was just off the beaten path and all those unbeaten paths eventually find their way to the roads more traveled.

That night before we went to sleep we talked about some people we knew before we prayed. These days, people we know are often just visible from the same old road we always see them from. We only know the view from one direction.

When we get to know people, especially people that are harder to get to know, we find faults in them. For some reason we discard people with faults. I don’t know why. I suppose there are many that have discarded me because I am full of faults. Sometimes their faults are painful and hard to take. Sometimes all we can see is an abandoned building, in ruins, in shambles and ready to collapse. Some people are dangerous and we don’t dare step inside to see what lies beneath the skin.

I know some people that I really love that push me back and don’t welcome me into their lives. I feel lost because there is a giant place in my life for them but they rarely visit at all. Even when they are present they are gone and I long to have them back.

I’m learning not to give up on people. I’m hoping that someday I will walk in the door and things will be like they should be and there will be laughter where there is only pain now. But in the meantime I will take more side roads full of potholes and dirt, roads that leave my paint dulled under a layer of dust but my heart stretched to include people my old self would have overlooked.

Maybe the reminder of my sadness is due to the way I used to rush toward the end of each day, staying on the shortest course with the gas pedal mashed firmly to the floor beneath my heavy foot.

I’m thankful for the new friends I find now and the time I carve away for them without regret. I’m also sad for the ones who appear they may be lost and that I long to spend my moments with from time to time that have no time for me anymore. These are the kinds of things that are so difficult to hand over to God. I think I am able to do it but it seems to magically reappear in my emptiness again and again.

Psalm 40:16 But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

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