A businessman needing to attend a conference in a faraway city decided to travel on country roads rather than the freeways so he could enjoy a relaxing journey. After some hours of traveling he realized he was hopelessly lost. Seeing a farmer tending his field on the side of the road, he stopped to ask for directions. “Can you tell me how far it is to Chicago?” he asked the farmer. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer replied.
Well, can you tell me how far I am from Fond du Lac, WI?” the businessman questioned again. “Well, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again replied. “Can you at least tell me the quickest way to the main road?” The exasperated businessman asked.“Nope, I don’t rightly know,” the farmer again answered. “You really don’t know very much at all, do you?” blurted the impatient businessman. “Nope, not much, but I ain’t lost,” the farmer calmly answered.
Part One: Here is another reflection from my retreat journey. So the story goes . . . “Can you tell me how far . . .?” That was a question that often lingered in my mind and heart before, during, and after my retreat. On the way to my retreat, I traveled north on the freeway, thinking that I would by-pass the road construction that appears like the flowers once spring has entered our hemisphere. No luck. Shortly upon my journey, there were rows and rows of orange barrels, workers with hard-hats and green vests, and company trucks parked along the road creating their own parking lot. So I had to be alert to the change in lanes, the new signs that were temporary, and the traffic that didn’t like being confined to only one lane. Unfortunately, I missed my exit going north since the new markings were tilted from the wind, and the orange barrels were also scattered, making it somewhat questionable if my exit was really open. So I knew that the next best thing was to shift into “Plan B”, which was simply to take the next exit and turn around and hit my desired exit going south. But lo and behold, upon entering the next exit going north, the ramp now was reconfigured with a round-about – again inviting me to test my driving and reading skills, while trying to not lose sight of the ramp I needed to go south. Well, with a smile and a wave to the other drivers, I eased my way to my ramp and headed south. Whew! I wondered if this was a sign of what was to come. Would I be asking God - Can you tell me how far within am I to travel? What is your desire for me? To what signs do I need to be alert? What is being reconfigured in your dream for me?
Part Two: Upon leaving the grounds at the end of my retreat, I headed to the office to submit my payment. I casually asked the woman at the desk, “Can you tell me what the name of the road is heading east that takes me down into the valley from these bluffs? I’ve taken it before, but can’t remember its name or number. I believe it was a left turn.” She said, “You want 162 South.” Ok – I would go with that and upon heading east for only a few short miles I came across 162 South, but it was now a right turn. Hmmmm. This didn’t feel right or look right, for I remember a Stop sign, some fences, and the road umbrella-ed with beautiful maple and oak trees. This road, 162 South, was none of this. Hmmmm. Maybe those guys in the green vests and orange barrels have reconfigured this road too. So I made the right turn onto the road and didn’t recognize anything, any place, and there were no signs to let me know the place to which I was headed, and there were not too many roads that intersected with 162 South. So I thought, hmmmmmmm – guess this is a new adventure heading east. So I began “expanding my world view” now enjoying the beauty of the bluffs, and the greenery and wild flowers. Still no town or village – besides, I didn’t have a GPS, or a Pillar of Fire or a Pillar of Cloud – only my little direction gauge on the dashboard, my trusty map, and my inner compass – my own inner GPS – my intuition. After a number of miles, I knew this was not the road I had always taken when leaving the bluffs, but thought it would offer me some new perspectives and experiences.
Eventually, I thought of the wisdom statement from a meditation site: “Trust your sense of judging melon.” None of us go to “Melon School” to learn how to select just the right melon to place on our table for a sweet ‘n juicy treat. Somehow we already have that inner knowing about which melon is the best – we trust our eyes, our fingers, our nose, our grip in holding the melon, and our taste buds when samples are made available. Like my capacity to judge melon, I now had to trust my eyes, nose, mind, body, and inner knowing that I would eventually find the freeway.
So it could be that the next time I would find myself in the bluffs of North West Wisconsin seeking a road of which was part of my comfort zone, I may just want to take another route – “a road less traveled,” which would offer me new learnings that I would have missed if I didn’t get “hopelessly lost” in the trust of God, nature, and road signs which were probably put up by those workers who attended “Orange Barrel School.”
I close with two quotes from Dag Hammarskjöld who must have traveled back roads as well: “How long the road is. But, for all the time the journey has already taken, how you have needed every second of it in order to learn what the road passes-by.” And “The longest journey is the journey inwards.”
Previously posted June 2013