My family recently returned from a week-long trip to Idaho to go water skiing, tubing, SeaDoing (Is that a word?), swimming, and camping. We have taken this trip annually for the past three years. It was a great time, and a great workout (my arms are still sore from all of the water skiing).
This year, we borrowed my wife’s grandpa’s RV. It has all the amenities one could want: televisions, refrigerator, stove and oven, microwave, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and REAL beds! All of this was shoved into a ‘compact’ 33 foot long, 10 foot-wide motor home. It was just what we needed to enjoy our vacation to the max. Even better, it had a hitch so we could take our SeaDoo along for the ride. It only made the total length of the haul about 45 feet.
Anyone who has done a long haul with kids knows that you must try to break the trip up for your own sanity. My wife and I thought it would be great if we stopped partway through the Columbia River Gorge to do a hike. This would get our legs stretched, allow us to see some sights, and (most importantly) let the kids get their wiggles out. We settled on a nice hike near the Bonneville Dam on the Oregon side of the Gorge.
As we exited Interstate 84, we came to a stop sign. To the left was a road that led to the Bonneville Dam visitor center, which had bathrooms, plenty of parking in their spacious parking lot, and well-signed paths to help visitors have an optimal experience. To the right was a single-lane road that led to the trail head.
Something inside me told me to play it safe, and park the behemoth that I was driving at the dam and walk the extra quarter-mile to the trail head (After all, the trail itself was only a two mile round trip). However, I thought I might be able to snag a spot that much closer to my goal of having a great hiking experience. After all, the reviews I read online about the trail head had mentioned that there weren’t many parking spaces there, but that the road to the trail head made a loop. So, logically, if there were no parking spots remaining, I could simply circle out and park over at the dam. I was feeling good about my RV driving skills, so despite my gut feeling, I decided to get us a close to our goal as possible. I turned right.
As we entered the ‘parking lot,’ the road narrowed quickly. As my RV motored forward, I could see the ‘loop’ that all of the reviews had described. However, the reviewers failed to mention that cars are mostly parked along the sides of the loop, shrinking the actual roadway from about 12 feet wide to about only six feet wide; four feet narrower than the motor home. We were stuck. We couldn’t move forward any further, and there was zero space to turn around. The only way out of this ‘loop’ was to back out.
This seemed simple enough, except for a couple of problems: 1) I was towing my family’s SeaDoo, which I can’t see in the mirrors because the trailer is very small (and the RV very big). If I tried to back up with it still hooked on, it would most likely jack-knife, and I would then be unable to move forward OR backward. 2) The entrance to the parking area was partially uphill, and curved, which meant it wouldn’t be a simple operation. There would be some serious maneuvering involved. 3) There were now cars behind us trying to figure out what moron thought he could bring a motor home into this tiny parking lot.
As we pondered our next step, I could see our soon-to-be fellow hikers take notice of the idiot behind the wheel. Some were shaking their heads, some were laughing, some looked simply dumbfounded. At that point, I felt like I had the word “dummy” tattooed on my forehead. I was embarrassed, I was stressed, and I got mad.
Now, I will say this upfront. The males in the Reisig family (my dad, my brother, etc.) tend to get angry about situations, not at people. I have crushed window screens that wouldn’t fit back into place, broken my fair share of tools that wouldn’t ‘work right,’ and other various high brow antics. Needless-to-say, this was one of those situations. I had made a massive misjudgment, and now I was stuck. I could feel the anger beginning to boil inside me.
We came up with a plan that we thought we could execute. My wife and I quickly disconnected the SeaDoo trailer and moved it to the side. My wife volunteered to help guide me as I backed the RV up the wrong direction of a one lane road. My wife (who was a saint throughout this entire ordeal) had never aided anyone backing a large vehicle before, so was doing her best to guide me by shouting instructions and flailing her arms. However, over the roar of the engine, I couldn’t hear her voice, and all of her arm motions were not making sense to me at all. Was she pointing me somewhere or swatting mosquitoes? I got more angry.
Eventually, a good Samaritan came to our aid to help us back out of the loop, we worked out a signalling system. By the time we finally were free of the ‘trap,’ I had managed to embarrass my family, yell at my wife and kids, backup traffic several cars deep, and had completed the “How to Drive an RV for Morons” course with top honors.
Oh, but we weren’t done yet. To add to the humiliation, I figured out that I couldn’t get the RV far enough into the parking area to retrieve our unhitched SeaDoo. We were left with only one recourse…we had to drag it out by hand. My wife (who was a saint throughout all of this – Did I say that already?) and I drug it from the parking area for about 200 yards (half of which was uphill).
It was awesome. People were literally passing us in their cars as we were moving the trailer down the road by hand. I’m sure that several thought we were stealing it. But, mostly, they were really confused as to what were could possibly be doing hand pulling a SeaDoo and trailer. What guy had that “What the…?” look on his face.
We found a place we could leave the trailer where I could later retrieve it with the motor home. By the time we got it where it needed to go, we were both exhausted – having gone to completely anaerobic cardio moving that sucker up the hill.
We finally found RV ‘friendly’ parking spaces over at the Bonneville Dam Visitor’s center (which was the road to the left). We didn’t have any problem parking it this time, as the roads were wide, and the spaces were specifically laid out to accommodate RVs. We were no longer stuck. It was over.
How many times does something like this happen when we think we know the best direction for our life? We have goals that we want to achieve, and we want to get there as soon as possible. We are even willing to take an occasional shortcut to get there. Inevitably, we get stuck. We listen to others, ignore our instincts, and don’t follow what we know is true. We take a road that leads us into a place where we are humiliated, stressed out, angry, and stuck. There is no graceful way to back out of it. The situation sucks.
For many people, the initial reaction when they get themselves stuck in this type of life situation is to blame God. “Why didn’t you keep me from getting stuck here?! I thought you loved me and promised to care for me!” In those moments, God is often silent. Why? Because he doesn’t need to defend himself. Why not? Because we choose to drive down that road.
After our lunch and hike, and we were finally back on the road, I had time to reflect on what I had just caused to happen. I caused the stress, humiliation, anger, and idiocy that had transpired at the trail head. It was all me. I had no one else to blame. I chose the wrong road.
When I came to the stop sign when exiting the Interstate, I had the choice of two roads. One road, I knew for sure would be easy to navigate and would be setup correctly for my current situation. The other road, I knew little about, other than it appeared to get me closer to my goal – to go hiking. I also mistakenly believed what others had said about the trail head parking. I listened to them instead of following the course that I knew was true.
In the Bible, David, a man who was regularly taking the wrong road, put it this way:
The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.’ Psalm 32:8-9 (NLT)
God doesn’t make us go down a particular road in life. However, he promises to always give us the best roadway to follow. Here’s the catch. We must choose to follow it, even when it doesn’t seem like the quickest way to attain our goals. Why? Because those shortcuts are very deceiving.
God has a perfect view of our situation. He can see all of the roadways behind, to the side, and in front of us. He can see the traffic jams ahead, and the tight squeezes in the narrow parts that we don’t even know are there. He can see where we are going from every perceivable angle. We can’t even comprehend the intelligence that God has when it comes to plotting our course. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, said it like this:
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)
In short, the only idiot in the decision-making process of which road to chose is us. Rather than blaming God for allowing us to get stuck, we should be thanking him for helping us get unstuck, and back on the correct roadway. After all, he promises that his choice of directions will always be right.
The only way to know which way to turn is to follow His directions. We do this through prayer and the studying of his road map – the Bible.
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Take this opportunity to thank God for always trying to steer you in the best possible direction for your life. Ask him to continually lead you through every second of your existence. Study the Bible. Don’t just read it. Study it. Memorize it. Follow it. You will spend much less time being stuck, and much more time enjoying the route that God has planned for you.