The map collection sits on a shelf. Opening each one reveals a path highlighted in some neon colour outlining where I’ve been. Some lines are short – a straight line connecting two different cities. Others are convoluted, even circular, tracing journeys that have been far from straightforward.
I am a destination person. I need to be at airports early. My stomach prefers that! I will gladly sit and wait for a long time if it means I am sure I am in the right location. Many times, the getting there – the queues for security, navigating my way through airports, the taxi rank – these things add stress and steal joy from the experience. The travel isn’t necessarily the happy part of the trip for me.
I believe that U turns are a necessary part of a journey. The turn off was overshot and a retracing of steps is required to get back on the desired path.
I require a GPS or Google Maps or something. I am seriously directionally challenged. I know how to get places because I follow the directions my mobile chirps at me the first time. That whole initial journey, my eyes are frantically searching for landmarks. What’s on the corner? What significant item makes this easier? The next time I head to that destination, I’m watching for every landmark I’ve programmed into my head and pay little attention to anything else.
I believe in getting lost. I don’t like getting lost. But knowing me and how I travel, this is part of my experience! I’m better with getting lost in countries that speak my language. It’s a little more complicated when English is a hindrance.
I like stumbling on “tastes of home.” I am a firm believer that when I am experiencing somewhere else, I need to live like they do. I want to dry delicacies that I will never find at home. I want to be stretched to try the unique. But somehow, stumbling on something that is familiar always warms my heart. It adds a touch of homesickness but it’s comforting nonetheless.
But the journey I have been on this year was one I wouldn’t have chosen. This was no road trip. Instead, my feet found themselves on a path that wound its way into the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). I didn’t like this journey. I liked this destination even less! I didn’t like it for any of my loved ones. I didn’t want to have to play piano at any of these services.
I wanted to and still sometimes wish to make U turns. My loved ones are dearly missed. While memories are cherished, I would really love to have another conversation, another hug, another laugh. I can’t make this U turn.
I would have loved a map to help me deal with grief. I have cried buckets of tears. Kleenex and I are familiar friends. But, am I doing it right? Is there a prescription for how to grieve correctly? Intellectually, I know about the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And while I’ve experienced bits of all of them, I’m not sure where I’m at.
I’ve felt completely lost. There were no landmarks to guide the steps. A map would not have solved this. This wasn’t lost because of a missed turn or not knowing where I was. This was lost because this territory is the place where no one signs up to live life. Grief is the land no one chooses to live in.
But there are are “tastes of home” found all over the place. I am more and more convinced that while this earthly home is one I love and cherish, my eternal destination is much grander than I can imagine. My Heavenly Father has known each step of the journey I have been on this year. None of it has caught Him off guard. Instead, He continues to call out to me with His love and compassion. As my eyes have cried in sorrow, His heart has hurt along with me. And He is more tender than I had ever known. I have seen His face in the care and concern of friends who have prayed for me. I have known His touch in the arms that have pulled me into warm embraces. I have known His pain as others have cried along with me. And I know I have been carried in His arms because my strength was sapped in ways I had not anticipated.
I didn’t choose this journey. But it was mine to walk. I am slowly becoming accustomed to what this destination looks like.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20, 21