As some of you know, I live in the not-so-happy land of directional confusion (except when it comes to being on the interstate where my internal compass always seems to point to the mountains where I spent my childhood!). These days, given landmarks like tall buildings or the names of main streets, I can usually figure out whether to turn left or right. It just might involve a few wrong turns in the process.
I didn’t drive in my hometown as a young adult. But even if I had, there was one main road in and out of town. We had one elementary school, one post office, one bank, one volunteer rescue squad, one volunteer fire department, one grocery store, etc. Directions to turn left at the red barn or make a right turn by the bank made perfect sense.
Imagine my frustration the first time I moved far away from home, and there was more than one chain convenience store with the same name. How would I know which one to look for if I needed to make a turn off of the main road?
Hypothetical instructions like to turn south at the far west end of the northeast side of the building would have had me pulling my hair out. What? My husband says this scenario is not possible. That is my point exactly! Upon receipt of unclear directions, at least to me, I promptly turn to my husband. “So, where do I turn and which way?” I ask.
Directions in plain English, please! Some have said that landmark directions are considered “woman” directions. That can’t be true since all of my children, including my daughter, have internal compasses.
Just give me a tiny hint. What color is the trim on the house on the corner of the street? What store is just before that intersection? Which side of the road? Do I turn right or left? Will I have to take a right or left exit off of the interstate? You see, there must be plenty of time to change lanes! How much longer is the drive if I don’t use the interstate? Just in case you are wondering, yes, I’m sure there is a back road that I can use to get there. People, somehow, miraculously managed to get from place to place long before those interstates.
Once, after driving forty-five minutes the long way (interpretation-avoiding the interstate) to a pool playdate in an unfamiliar area, I headed back home with three happy but tired children. One of our sons fell asleep, the son that was to help Mom not get lost. I thought I’d just keep going. Surely I would recognize the next turn while he rested.
I must confess, whenever I get the opportunity to drive in wide-open spaces, my small town roots kick in. For some reason, I think I am headed home with a long peaceful drive ahead of me. I settle in to enjoy the landscape, cows, and fluffy white clouds without all the people, office buildings, stores, concrete, and traffic.
On this particular occasion, I suddenly realized that I had missed my turn. I kept on driving, somehow hoping to see a street name that I recognized. One problem when you get lost when driving out in the country, there are very few street signs. The road narrowed into one lane, room enough for barely one vehicle, and then turned from blacktop to gravel. I turned the van around the first chance I could, in front of a dilapidated mobile home with tires on the roof and several barking dogs chasing our van. The navigator woke up trying to figure out what all the commotion was. The youngest exclaimed, “Mommy, I’m scared! I don’t want to live here!” Determined to retrace my steps, I spent over an hour driving back and forth, alternating between prayer and rising panic.
Tearfully I called my husband, who was still at work waiting on us. After years of receiving these kinds of calls, he very patiently and calmly asked a few questions ending with “which side of the van is the sun on?” Whew! My next turn would have been to turn in the wrong direction. Two hours later than planned, we made it back to his office in the city.
This trip was only one of many such adventures over the years. I assure you; that the humor in these situations does not come until the shedding of tears and time to process. Thank God for His mercy, an understanding husband and friends, directionally gifted children, and smartphones with GPS! And yes, even with those blessings, I have still managed to get lost. I experience sheer panic when the destination or directions change while en route, making my carefully prepared plans obsolete.
So, the next time someone asks for directions or appears lost, please have mercy, be patient, and show compassion. That desperate and glazed look in their eyes might reveal a member of the Directionally Dysfunctional Club!
“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” (ESV, Isa. 41:13)
And oh, LORD, I sure need it!!!