The other day I was in Athens, Ohio hanging with a friend of mine who runs a dynamic ministry to the rural poor near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I had just finished playing Frisbee with the staff-members when I got a phone call from my wife telling me that we got an offer on our house and that we had to sign the papers the next day—and not a day later. Selling our house was the one obstacle getting in the way of my wife and I's move to Bethlehem next year, so I was elated. The only dimmer on the evening was it was 9:00 p.m. and I knew that it would take at least 10 hours to drive home. With little time to think, I packed my stuff and headed home. I drove till about 2:30 a.m. and found a Super 8 just outside of Indianapolis.
The next day I got up--after about 4 hours of sleep--and continued on my way. Everything was going well till about 10:00 a.m. I was in McDonalds having breakfast when the windows of heaven started pouring down. The rain reminded me of Noah's flood and for a brief minute I contemplated what it must have felt like standing outside the ark after the doors were shut. Then the lights went completely out. I saw a man standing around that looked like he knew something that I didn't, so I asked if he knew when the storm was going to let up. He proceeded to tell me the bad news that Hwy 70 W was closed down about 20 miles south of where I was and the traffic was backed up for miles.
Knowing I couldn't risk letting more time go by, I decided to head out anyway and sure enough, he was right. Luckily the guy had an atlas in his truck and he helped me work out an alternative route before I left. Just before the traffic build-up I spotted an exit and decided to fuel up. I also had to go to the bathroom, but, unfortunately the bathroom was out of order--and that was the only bathroom around for miles. I had a choice to make at that moment. I could either lose my dignity and go in a bush at the corner of the lawn attached to the station, or I could get back on the road and wait about two hours in the traffic. Like any man would do, I chose option one and silently thanked God that he didn't create me a woman.
Once I finally got to the exit for the alternative route, I pulled over to another gas station only to find out that the road I was traveling on was also closed down further down the way due to an overturned truck. This time, I had to drive about 18 miles to another highway that was supposed to get me back on 70 going west. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the entire area was declared a disaster area due to the flooding--which meant that I was going to have to spend another 3 hours in stand still traffic. To make matters worse, after I got back on the road and spendt another two hours in agony, I pulled over to another gas station only to find out that the station was temporarily closed down. I seriously didn't think I was going to make it back home that day, but thank God I did. The trip took twice as long as it should have, but I made it back just in the nick of time to sign the papers to close the deal.
I'm reminded of 2 Timothy 1:17 where the Apostle Paul describes how a man named Onesimus arrived in Rome and sought for Paul zealously until he found him. Just like the way I was determined to get home to sign the papers on the sale of my home despite the obstacles in my way, Onesimus was a man that didn't allow obstacles to detract him from his destination. Had Onesimus taken the same attitude that many Christians do today, he would have concluded that it simply wasn't God's will for him to find Paul after two or three tries. I think that too often we pacify ourselves for our lack of perseverance by saying, "Oh well, I guess it wasn't God's will for me to finish my education or to go on that missionary trip" when the real reason is we just didn't want it bad enough. So the next time you think about giving up on a dream or a destination, just remember Onesimus, and if that doesn't do anything for you, just picture a frustrated young man sitting in agony through hours of traffic praying for a gas station. Just keep driving!