Before I left Minnesota to drive to Riverton, Wyoming, I entered the destination address in Google Maps. Google Maps calculated my route, estimated my arrival time, and verbally gave me turn-by-turn directions before I had to make them. I followed the directions each and every turn for the first 200 miles. When I made my last turn onto Interstate 90 that would take me across South Dakota, the nice voice on Google Maps told me to drive for 398 miles. So I started to drive those 398 miles. Somewhere between “Nowhere” and “Out There” I saw a large billboard sign on the side of the interstate that demanded that I turn right even though Google Maps indicated I should stay on the road I was on. The sign said “Turn Right Now.” That was literally all it said. Whatever used to reveal why a person should turn right was long gone. All that was there now were the three words “Turn Right Now” boldly temping me to stray off course. I looked to the left and saw grasslands and rolling hills as far as my eyes could see. Then I looked to the right and I saw more grasslands and rolling hills as far as my eyes could see. I did see an exit, but there was nothing around the exit at all. No gas station, no restaurant, no special historical plaque or marker worthy of turning right for. Although tempted to turn right, I made the executive decision to stay on course. Who knows, I may have passed up free gold or a great steak dinner. I guess I will just have to live with the tension that comes from not knowing why someone wanted me to turn right. The only reason why I was tempted to turn right when I saw the sign was because I had spent the past two hundred miles driving through some desolate country and was a little bored.
In a spiritual sense, Jesus calls believers to journey with him because he knows your destination and wants to lead you to it. There will be plenty of people or situations that will tempt you to veer off course, especially when you are a little bored, but Jesus wants you to stay focused and to not get distracted by the myriad of pointless activities that lead you away from Christ. Some of the temptations to veer off course are powerful, like pursuing pleasure to get your adrenaline fix or sacrificing your family to chase fantasies. But in the end, they will lead you down a dead end road and who knows how far you will stray before you come to the end.
Here is my advice for you. Whatever path you are traveling right now, make sure you are traveling it with Jesus. Don’t invite him to join you on your journey, that’s like telling Google Maps when you are going to turn. Rather, pursue Him and his destiny for you, then align your life to His will and proceed. He will tell you when you need to turn, stop, rest, or keep going.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Recently I went to my friend’s ranch in Riverton, Wyoming to spend some time reflecting, praying, and writing alone. Our family has been vacationing at the ranch for years so I have collected many wonderful memories with my family there. It is a very special place to me. While driving to the ranch I passed through all the familiar cities. As I passed through Rapid City, South Dakota, I reflected on the sweet memories we made there with our dear friends camping at the KOA in a borrowed camper trailer. Our kids were so young and playful back then. When I came to the city of Hot Spring, South Dakota I drove past the grocery store that I bought Katie a special treat in and where we took the kids swimming in a mountain stream. Driving through the mountains I laughed reflecting on the trip that I did the “Clark Griswald” by launching the minivan off the road at a construction site in the middle of the night. By the grace of God, we all lived sustaining only minor damage to the van, but now I drive a little slower in that particular area. The ranch was dead quiet without my family, but my mind was reliving each and every special moment through tears of joy as if they just happened. Our small children that used to swim and play at the ranch have grown up now. Josh is a senior in high school, Sara is a sophomore, and Katie is an eighth grader. They will never swim and play at the ranch like they used to because life goes on and we are all getting older. As a matter of fact, some of my friends have already passed away. We all share the same plot in life and in the quietness of the empty ranch, I realized that my best years are behind me.
But here’s the thing, even though my best years are behind me, I still have my best years in front of me. That’s right, the best is yet to come. You see, when we look back on our life, we see what was because it already happened. We have the pictures and memories to prove it. The good days, bad days, happy and sad days are all exposed because we have already been there and done that. Since you can’t relive them, they were your best days, even if you wish they were different. So your best days are behind you and your best days are still to come. David writes: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6). God was with you in the past, is with you in the present, and will be with you in the future. Your best days are yet to come, they just haven’t happened yet. It takes faith to believe this and to tackle each day with a new sense of hope.
So even though the memories of our family at the ranch brought tears to my eyes, I know that there are more memories to be made tomorrow. And yes, I will cry over them too. I guess that is part of being human. Ten years from now I hope that I cry new tears of joy celebrating what will then be the past. And ten years from then I hope my heart still echoes David’s words when he wrote: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6). Ultimately, I want to encourage you to live each day to the fullest by giving your best so you can honestly say your best days are behind you and your best days are yet to come.