I seem to have spent a lot of time driving this summer – going on holiday, visiting friends and family, and travelling to special events in different parts of the country, as well as the usual journeys between the villages of our benefice. I usually enjoy driving which is just as well because John has never learnt to drive. He is very happy to be chauffeured everywhere. In fact, when he gets in the car for a long journey he often falls asleep within the first half hour. I wonder if this shows total confidence in my skill as a driver or is it just the soothing rhythm of the engine.
Wherever we have travelled this summer we seem to have been beset by roadworks. We have experienced single file traffic on motorways, additional traffic lights on minor roads, road closures and diversions. It has been very frustrating. Like most drivers I like to keep moving and enjoy travelling along a clear road. After a visit to our daughter in Cambridge last week we experienced a series of problems which added an extra three quarters of an hour to our usual journey time. As we set off from Cambridge there was a road closure and a diversion. I dutifully followed the diversion signs for a mile or so, but then realised that we were heading in completely the wrong direction. I assumed that I had made a mistake, turned round and headed back. We started again and once more picked up the diversion signs only to find that we were travelling the same route as previously. By this stage there was no way in which John was able to fall asleep because I was complaining loudly about the confusing directions! We drove back into Cambridge, parked by the side of the road and phoned our daughter for directions. At long last we left Cambridge on a different route and were able to continue on our journey – and John was able to have his usual snooze!
Jenny and I have conducted several baptisms for children recently and at a baptism we often say that the child is starting on a lifelong journey of faith. Journeys of faith can be very similar to car journeys. There may be obstacles to be negotiated, road closures, potholes or diversions. Journeys need commitment and concentration to be safe and successful, but we are often diverted in our journeys of faith by the distractions of our busy lives. I sometimes think that God is like a Sat Nav giving us clear directions about where we should be heading, but too often we think that we know best and set out on a different route! The trouble is that we may then get lost. Fortunately God is still there to redirect us if we are prepared to tune into him and listen to him again. (I am now concerned that after reading this you will feel that you are hearing the voice of God whenever you turn on your Sat Nav in the car!)
There are also times when the journey of faith seems particularly difficult because we are facing illness, grief or despair in our lives. It can seem like a road closure, as if God has abandoned us and we feel lost. The following little prayer is about hope at the end of such a journey:
“May we discover that the road we didn’t choose
didn’t want to travel,
is a highway that leads unerringly
towards the light” (Frances Copsey)
May you negotiate all of life’s journeys with calmness and hope.