(30 Days of Truth – Day 23: Describe a truly spiritual moment in your life)
The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. ~Anonymous
I have to share something before I begin today’s post. It’s funny the way God works sometimes. I have been planning this post for some time now and even alluded to it back on Day 15. Then yesterday’s topic was to discuss a dark/turbulent moment in your life and I just couldn’t bring myself to visit one of those places in my past. But, I knew that today’s post about a spiritual moment would require me to visit one of the darkest times I have ever experienced. I knew the emotions would be running away from me but I wanted to share this story of God’s amazing grace with you. And then in church today, our pastor Paul spoke about the snapshots of regret in our lives. Whew….that one really struck a nerve with me. Even though I have regrets in my life I need to work through, I do not have a single regret about the things that happened that led to this moment in time.
To say that 2005 was the year of my awakening would be a huge understatement. That is the year I officially moved to the Tampa Bay area and it is the year I met Gil. At first, our no strings attached relationship was exactly what I wanted and needed at the time. However, no one can predict what the heart wants and mine was out of control. It was several months into our relationship that I fell in love with him over margaritas at Los Vallarta’s in Temple Terrace. I fought it and denied it for as long as I could but there came a time when the emotions overtook my good senses and I confessed my feelings.
Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. However, there was nothing normal about our relationship. You see, Gil was in love with someone else when I met him. He had sacrificed so much to be with this woman and he was just waiting for her to do the same. He had been honest with me from our first date and at that time, this made him the perfect guy for me. We began to date on a very casual basis but the more we spent time together, the more our feelings grew for each other. Even though he found himself feeling love for me, he was not in love with me. That sentiment was reserved for the woman he was waiting for. And he waited. We grew closer but he pushed me away and he pulled me back in and pushed me away again, not at all unlike what she was doing to him. There came a point in late September of that year that we found ourselves unable to continue the roller coaster we were on together, and I was devastated.
I had been really down and depressed and was sure that all hope was lost for Gil and I to ever have even a friendship. Too many hurtful things had been said and I wasn’t sure either of us could forget and forgive. I spent an insane amount of time literally on my hands and knees asking God to take the pain away or bring him back to me. Whatever God’s plan was, I would be okay, but I needed relief or else I wasn’t sure I could endure it much longer. Unfortunately, it felt to me as if God wasn’t listening, that He was punishing me. I had never felt so alone and so far away from God.
It was during this time that I was asked by a co-worker if I could drive his car from our office in St. Petersburg to his new home in Palmetto. He drove a Miata. HA…of course I would help him out. I headed out one beautiful Saturday morning and grabbed a couple of CD’s on my way out the door. Gil had introduced me to Sister Hazel and I had completely fallen in love with their music. He and I both found meaning and inspiration in so many of the song lyrics. However, during our tumultuous time I was completely unable to listen or even think of them. But something made me grab their CD’s ‘Chasing Daylight’ and ‘Lift’ as I headed out to pick up the convertible for my little adventure.
Given the car was a convertible and it was such a gorgeous autumn day, I took the long way south by heading west toward the beaches. Top down, breeze in my hair, perfect weather, and Sister Hazel on the Bose system. What more could a girl want? It was perfect. And then something amazing happened.
I put Lift in the CD player and there it was…..the hope was back with a vengeance. I was so happy and free all of a sudden. I heard Sister Hazel in a very different and unexpected way. Here is what I heard:
You need a little makeup dear
To cover up all your stains
With another trick right here, yeah
You fool them all once again
You need a little emptiness
Before you know what is real
And take a little taste of wine, yeah
To give yourself half a chance
And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul
And with these treasures you have found
The broken pieces of your crown
It’s time to lay your cross on down
(Lay it down)
And with this kingdom you have now
It’s time to lay your cross on down
You better lay it down
You carry in a bright white lie
To cover up all your shame
You’re gonna have to testify
To color in all your claims
And when you’re weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul and
Spend your days not falling down
Before your empty idols
I heard these lyrics, as if for the first time, as my story and my romance with God. And then every song on the CD spoke to me. “World Inside My Head” and then “Hold On” and then “I Will Come Through”. I imagined the lyrics were my prayers to God or God speaking openly to me. I can’t explain why these lyrics affected me so. I’d heard them a hundred times before but I always heard them as if they were my messages to Gil. I had never heard them like this, and I was filled with joy as a result.
When ‘Lift’ was done playing, it was time to switch the CD and I went directly to ‘Chasing Daylight’. WOW, WOW, WOW. What else can I say? Song after song brought me higher and higher. I was at the base of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge when the song “Swan Dive” began to play. This is the song that Gil most often used to describe his feelings for the woman he was in love with so I had never let myself really enjoy that song. That changed for me that day. This song brought me to what I thought would be the highest I could ever be, and it happened, ironically, as I reached the top of that beautiful bridge with the most amazing, breathtaking view of God’s glory. I had never felt so liberated and so loved and so cherished and so pursued as I did in that moment. The song ended and I replayed it over and over again. I think I was on the third playing of the song when I reached for the directions to my friend’s house.
It was at this moment that I realized in my haste to leave earlier that morning, I had left the directions on the front seat of MY car. I had a very basic idea of where I was going but no specific turn by turn directions to get me there. In an attempt to avoid calling and asking for directions again, I tried to find my way on my own. This led to me taking a wrong turn off of the interstate with no ramp to get back on. There was only one direction I could travel and it looked like I was heading that way whether I wanted to or not.
As soon as I turned onto the small, winding two lane road, I was completely overwhelmed. First there were open pastures and falling down barns and trees and suddenly the trees opened up to this beautiful little pond. And then I passed the pond and continued on this winding road. “What lies around the next curve?” Each bend brought a view more spectacular than the one before and by this time I just could not believe what is going on inside my heart and my head and stirring deep down in my soul. The hope was back. The despair I had felt earlier that day was nowhere to be found. The winding road straightened and I think I was shown a glimpse of heaven. The road was long and straight and lined with towering Live Oaks that formed a complete canopy over the road, as if enveloping me and providing protection from the hot bearing sun that was beginning to burn my skin. Small streams of sunlight were shining through but not enough to hurt me. Here I was in a car that wasn’t mine, lost in a place I didn’t know and I felt a euphoria that was almost holy.
I feel like God spoke directly to me first through song and then through the beauty of nature. It was as if he took his hands and covered that road to protect me, just like He has been promising to do since I was born. I was so shaken by this moment that I had to pull over and weep, unlike I’ve ever wept before. I cried tears of joy and ecstasy and bliss. Every tear was a happy tear, no sad tears to be found. How could I have ever doubted Him?
And all of this because of a Wrong Turn.
It, of course, got me to thinking about all the wrong turns I’d made in my life. Some of them I am very much aware of and some have yet to be revealed to me. And then there are the wrong turns I haven’t taken yet. I am sure there will be many more in my life but I will never again assume that a wrong turn will take me to a wrong place. Sometimes, the wrong turn leads to a better way, however winding and dangerous and frightening it may be.
The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark. ~Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, Rosebud, 1993
After this experience I felt an overwhelming need to share it with Gil. I wrote him a letter later that day and said, “I do not think that the path that led me to you was a wrong turn. There were too many reasons for us to meet that February evening and our friendship is proof of that. I feel that if you had been a wrong turn for me, I would be able to walk away from this, and never look back. Unfortunately, I am always looking back and I see a road that was amazing and scary and breathtaking and devastating, but I don’t regret taking it.” Gil and I experienced many more months of confusion, hurt, anger and even compassion before we finally found our way. I believe our wrong turns were simply diversions to give each of us the time God needed to put our hearts on the same path.