The Way a Road Was Meant to Be

The Lord said to Gideon, “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me.’
Judges 7:2 NRSV

A few weeks ago, the powers that be in the Department of Transportation decided it was time to repave one of the major roads I travel on for my daily commute. Although the decision provoked my ire when I realized it would mean closed lanes and orange traffic drum obstacle courses during the peak of afternoon traffic, the first morning I drove on the newly paved road with its smooth, even surface, free of jolting bumps and potholes, I sighed and thought, "this is the way roads are meant to be."

My default attitude in life is to equate smooth, easy, and trouble free with "meant to be." When I started my current job, the events leading up to my finding it, interviewing, and beginning work progressed so favorably, that I was certain Providence had blessed it. I still am certain of that and am grateful. Still, this type of reasoning doesn't explain all the other efforts and transitions in my past life that were not granted such levels of success. Neither does it explain the non-career aspects of my present life that present challenges and concerns. Are all these things lacking in blessing?

When I was growing up, my family frequently piled everything in a car or truck to move. We covered a lot of road. One thing I learned is that the American asphalt landscape is diverse, featuring many more miles (at the time, at least) of uneven, cracked, and bumpy highways than new and smoothly paved ones.

My life experiences have revealed an analogous ratio: the seasons of spiritual growth and progress that were fraught with uncertainty and struggle far outnumbered the ones in which everything easily fell into place. Yet somehow, I forget that. In the midst of worries and obstacles, I long for a smoother road.

I'm not sure this longing only results from an aversion to misfortune or difficulty (though I have no doubt, that's a big part of it). I also think it's one of my characteristic attempts to confine God's work in my life to neat, narrow lanes. I want the roads He leads me down to have clear mile markers and directional signs marked, "GOD'S PLAN, NEXT EXIT."

Traveling on a road like this requires little discernment on my part. Furthermore, hoping the Almighty will limit the sweeping wisdom of His methods for the sake of my comfort and comprehension is arrogant and misguided. How quickly I forget that, no matter what the quality of the surface, the road and the journey are not about me.

Despite a slightly bizarre beginning, the farmer-turned-warrior Gideon, must have thought he'd finally been led to a decent road. God had shown him miraculous signs to prove he was called to save his fellow Israelites from their Midianite tormentors. The pending battle would be daunting, but God had allowed Gideon to muster a significant army. The way forward probably looked pretty good.

But then, God placed a detour sign in Gideon's path that meant reaching his goal would require taking a rough and incongruous route. "'The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand,'" the Lord informed Gideon (Judges 7:2). Too many. That must have been a confounding phrase for Gideon to hear. After all, an army that wants to win a battle generally has a lot of soldiers--that's the way the road to victory is meant to be. Why the drastic change of plans?

"Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, ‘My own hand has delivered me" (Judges 7:2). God directed Gideon to pare his army down from over 30,000 strong to just 300, Gideon obeyed, and God used that small army to execute a stunning victory that was unmistakably His own.

I think God reveals many things to us when He leads us down smooth, clear roads--things about His goodness and the depth of His favor. But I think He sometimes has even more to show us on the rough, unexpected roads that require constant prayer and full, mile-to-mile reliance on His power to work His will in His own way and timing. By God's grace, the destination is still the same: He will be glorified and we will learn to live in closer and closer communion with His perfect will.