I had anticipated such a magical day when my husband and I took our daughter Abby and our son Daniel to visit my alma mater during the Christmas holidays. I had purchased four tickets to the University of Georgia vs. Clemson men’s basketball game (we all four love college hoops!), checked online to see if my favorite greasy spoon diner was still in operation and packed the appropriate red and black attire.
But things didn’t go quite as I’d planned.
I had envisioned a pregame day of walking the entire massive campus in cool but glorious sunshine. Instead it drizzled and then poured the entire day. I had lugged umbrellas along, but walking miles around campus lost its allure in the dismal weather. Besides, it was muggy. Ugh. (You can see what mugginess does to my hair in the photo above!)
So, while we managed to walk a little in downtown Athens and through historic North Campus, we mostly drove the winding streets through the hilly university.
And that turned out to be an adventure for another reason. I got terribly lost.
I’ve only returned to the University of Georgia a handful of times since graduating in 1986. And every time I’ve gone back, new buildings have popped up where I didn’t know another edifice could possibly fit. Plus, the buildings that had looked modern and new when I was there in the 80s now appeared outdated and dowdy, especially on this rainy day in Georgia, so it was tricky identifying them. Finally, I never really did develop a proficient grasp of the southern portion of the UGA campus. That’s where classes of a scientific nature are conducted. Bleh. I took my (minimal) share of those classes, mind you, but I quickly brain-dumped both the information I learned in them and, evidently, the routes to the classes.
So as we drove through the windy roads of my alma mater, I struggled to get my bearings. I would assure my husband, who was driving, that we were about to approach a certain landmark only to realize we were somewhere completely different.
I had assumed I’d be able to navigate our tour of the university I’d called home for four years (Yes, I actually lived on campus all four years!). But instead I felt like a newcomer. My kids teased me, questioning if I’d really attended college there at all. And while I knew their jokes were meant to be good-natured, I became edgy and defensive. I felt lost, unsure and embarrassed. Eventually I ended up in tears.
Sometimes we struggle through seasons of life that feel just as unfamiliar as the University of Georgia did to me that December day. Even if we feel like we should be able to navigate a season or a change or a circumstance with some proficiency because we’ve handled something similar in the past, we may find ourselves feeling unsure and embarrassed instead.
Maybe you’ve helped others cope with losing their jobs so you assume you’ll be able to manage your own layoff with ease. But you’re hurting more than you anticipated.
Maybe you survived a turn with cancer so you assume your husband’s debilitating illness should be easier for you to navigate. But his struggle and frailty are scaring you to death.
Maybe you got your son through his teenage rebellion without killing him or yourself so you thought it would be easy sailing from here on out. But his inability to hold down a job and refusal to take his medication is weighing heavy on your heart.
Maybe you and your husband battled through a separation and rekindled your marriage with biblical counseling, but you’re surprised at how much your daughter’s marriage troubles are breaking your own heart.
You think you ought to be handling this better. Even though it isn’t identical to anything you’ve been through before, you’ve weathered enough similar storms to build up a little stamina and wisdom and emotional muscle. Right?
Sister, the truth is you haven’t been here before. You need to give yourself some grace. Quit expecting so much of yourself and lean back into the arms of the One who is not only here with you, but who has also gone ahead of you.
…for you have not passed this way before. (Joshua 3:4)
In Joshua 3:1-5, commanders of the Israelite army circulated through the camp instructing God’s people to follow the ark of the covenant (God’s presence) as they passed over treacherous waters and into the Promised Land. But they also warned the people to keep a safe distance from the ark, allowing God to lead instead of assuming they knew the way. Why? Because they had not been this way before.
True, some of these people who were about to pass through the Jordan River to get to Canaan had probably also passed through the Red Sea as children. But God warned them not to assume they knew the way across this river. It may have looked like familiar territory, but indeed they had “not passed this way before.”
If you are in new territory today…even if you thought it should be a piece of cake…let me give you a little encouragement: Allow God to lead. Don’t rush Him and don’t presume to know the way. Follow Him instead. Acknowledge that you don’t have it all together and that you desperately need His guidance.
And give yourself a little grace. This “place” may look a little familiar, but you haven’t really been here before. And no one expects you to navigate it expertly. You may stumble a little and even have to backtrack occasionally, but you’ll get through it.
Just let Him lead you. One step at a time.
A Prayer Suggestion
If you’re struggling to get your bearings in a “new place” acknowledge your dilemma to the Lord. Perhaps you need to confess that you’ve been pridefully trying to handle the twists and turns on your own, relying largely on past experience or learned knowledge. Using Proverbs 3:5-6 as a guide, tell the Lord you desire to stop relying on your own knowledge or ability and to begin allowing Him to lead the way. By faith, tell the Lord you will lean harder on Him from here on out.
This devotional is part of a series called Healing Words. If you’d like to read other words that bring healing to your wounded heart, click on the image below.
If your heart has been wounded and you are struggling to find healing, I’d like to suggest you try my Bible study, Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place. You’ll find more information here.