It occurred to me the other day there aren’t many places I go that don’t involve one or more highways.
There’s a complicated network of them in the Detroit area, and learning where they go has been one of my favorite parts of living here since I moved from Grand Rapids three years ago. I love that I’m still learning them, too; the other day I discovered I-96 has express lanes as it heads east into Detroit and a few days later I learned just how M-14 hugs Ann Arbor on its northern border.
What I think captivates me about the roadways in metro Detroit is the vision with which they were built. The streets reflect the surveying done according to the Northwest Ordinance: they are laid in a neat grid of square miles. The highways swerve and dash wherever they please, carving their way underneath and over the rest of the metropolis, intersecting with each other smoothly. But to have developed both systems required more than just knowing the purpose individual roadways. It required a deep knowledge of how that individual roadway would affect every other street and highway around it.
It reminds me, in fact, of our own lives.
We all want to know, concretely, intimately, the purpose of our lives, the trajectory of our legacies. We want to see, years later, how our words and actions have birthed hope and love. It’s not easy even in the reaping seasons to see how God is weaving that together, but it’s harder in a sowing season, and that’s where I’ve been for a while now. Maybe you’re there, too.
And why do we struggle so with sitting like Mary at Jesus’s feet? Why are we compelled to do and do and do, instead of learning to be? Why, in the midst of traffic, still in the driver’s seat, do I feel trapped, and yet when I cruise at 70mph feel free? Why do we define ourselves by the moving?
It’s the stillness that shapes us, the quietly told parables, the whisper in the wind.
Go, He says, on a Monday morning. You’ll do a lot of stopping, but you’ll have time to think. You’ll do your wrestling at stoplights and in traffic jams on the freeway.
It’s the adventure of a new day, tempered by pauses to pray and reflect.
Return, He says, on a Monday night. You won’t know what exit you take till you’re on it. It will take time; traffic is worse than it was this morning. Learn patience.
It’s the familiarity of home, excited by the turns we don’t see till we’re making them.
We don’t see our lives chronicled the way we see Abraham’s and Sarah’s or Joseph’s and Mary’s when they were told to go to and return from Egypt. But God knows, because He has laid down the road. He has engineered ramps on and off, the detours borne of construction, the speed at which we traverse it.
And as God, using this network of highways amidst the metropolis of life, leads us out into the world, so He too will lead us Home.