Have you ever driven somewhere so often that the route has been recorded and etched permanently in your brain? You know- I'm talking about those destinations that are so familiar to us that we occasionally space out on the way, but our mind manages to get us there on autopilot. I've had a few such routes stored away in my head over the years, and it's a very comforting thing, especially for someone like me who gets lost very easily. (I get lost with directions, I get lost without directions- I get more lost while being lost.)
Anyway, I was thinking recently about the roads that I pass by on my perfectly memorized route- roads that I have never been down. There are so many roads that I have never had a reason to travel, so they become just another landmark on the way to places I know well. And it is almost overwhelming to me to think that they all go somewhere, because to me they might as well not exist...they do not pertain to where I am going. Or so it seems. But other times I find myself feeling curious- wondering what I would find if I took an unexpected turn- maybe I would find myself somewhere new and interesting- or perhaps I would simply discover a new path to a place I've known forever. Until I drive down those roads, my mental map has blanks- it's as though I've got a map with all the roads I know in bold lines, but branching off from those like disappearing tributaries are faintly sketched lines that fade into nothing. Like on the edges of a pirate map or something.
Recently I was running late to my child's doctors appointment and I truly hated to think of rescheduling after all the time put into getting there. (You can only rush frantically to the car with two kids and a stuffed diaper bag and buckle so many legs and arms into carseats before you drive yourself crazy.) I ran into some traffic in my normal route, but luckily had just talked to a friend about a different way to get there that could potentially save me a lot of time. If I was very early I would have waited out the traffic because I was rather nervous to go down a road with an unknown ending. But, out of options, I pulled off in the direction that I believed to be the route my friend suggested. Lo and behold, I found myself almost immediately at my destination, saving valuable minutes and, ultimately, the appointment. Now the new road has become part of my permanent route- I would never dream of going the old way. But I only chose that road because of a moment of pressure.
My life is about to change fairly drastically, as my parents are moving many states and hours away from me. (The way to their house is actually one of the many routes that is seared into my internal GPS.) I find myself at a total loss many days- I do not know what I will do without them. I rely on them for daily friendship, advice and support in raising my children, and spiritual direction and feedback. I have such an amazing relationship with them that it is truly awful to picture a world in which they don't live within a half hour from me. Even though I know that they are moving for good reasons (another post for another time), I am still not happy to see them go.
Interestingly, their journey is taking both them and myself into the white space of my life map. This is uncharted territory for all of us, and it scares me to death. But I have to pray and believe that this is a pressure- a pressure that God can use for good. This is the road that will take me somewhere I've always wanted to go but was afraid of getting lost on the way. This is the traffic jam that can make me turn around and throw caution to the wind- make me say "it's now or never"- give me just enough of a jolt that I can leave my comfort zone and find something new and beautiful. And maybe that white space on my map will be just a little bit smaller- a little more filled in.
What is your unknown road? What would it take to get you to drive down it?