I’ve been lost in Italy more than anywhere else. Whether on foot, in a bus, in a car, with a map, with a GPS, or with directions scrawled on the back of a receipt, I managed to get lost. Of all the times I’ve been lost, one experience stands out.
We were in Italy for work and we had our infant son along. We were on our way to visit family friends who lived in Paderno d’Adda, about 45 minutes outside of Milano. My family had hosted their eldest son as an exchange student years before, and we had visited them on our first missions trip to Italy. Ever since then, we looked forward to reconnecting with them whenever we were in the area. They are a really great family,and we especially enjoyed visiting with the father. He has a warmth about him that always made us feel so welcome. But for some reason, we typically had a tough time getting there.
Maybe it was because Erik was always exhausted at the end of a work day. Maybe it was the timing of our arrival, which usually meant some of the worst traffic Milano had to offer. Maybe it’s because driving in Italy is, at best, a series of hairbreadth escapes. Whatever it was, getting lost was very emotionally charged for us. It became something of a joke with our friends. They were relieved when we got a GPS that guided us there correctly.
On this particular occasion, the GPS was not working. Our rental car had some issues. We drove through the center of Milano in rush hour traffic with a screaming, teething, jetlagged baby. We finally got to the general area, but couldn’t find a particular road. I called to get directions, but once we took a wrong turn, they were virtually useless. We drove around for over an hour within 5 miles of their house before we finally pulled into a gas station and called to admit our failure. We knew they had supper waiting for us, and that they had changed their evening plans to host us. We were always calling them at the last minute, and showing up late. I hated the thought of inconveniencing them. Worse, I hated the thought of disappointing them. Again. But when I called and explained where we were, he didn’t hesitate. He said something I’ll never forget,
“Stay right there. I’m coming to get you”.
In that moment, I knew I would never be the same. It finally sunk in.
I had a father who loved me enough to come get me.
(For this to make sense, you need to understand something about my husband Erik and I. We both grew up not knowing our biological fathers. Though our circumstances were different, and we both had adoptive fathers who loved us, we both felt the absence of a father in our lives. In a few seconds, through this simple act of a man I hardly knew, God gave me 30 years worth of fathering that I had been missing.)
He had given me directions time and time again. But directions weren’t enough. I needed him, in the flesh, guiding me home. I wanted to be capable of following the directions, but I wasn’t. I had failed to reach him on my own. So he came to get me.
When he arrived, we were sheepish and apologetic, but he leapt out of the car to embrace us and kiss us on each cheek. He seemed so genuinely delighted to see us that we were instantly at ease. He led the way back to their house, where we enjoyed their gracious hospitality again. When we left the next morning, he rode with us all the way to the airport and then took the train to work. He wanted to personally show us the road we needed to take.
A few minutes into the drive, we passed a traffic circle that Erik and I both recognized from the night before. The great thing about traffic circles (or roundabouts as some people call them) is that unlike a typical intersection, you can cycle back as many times as you need to. My life has been like that. It’s not so much that I’ve made “wrong turns” (although there have been plenty of those) as I’ve gone round and round needlessly. I had spun my wheels over this issue of feeling like an orphan my whole life, unable to resolve it on my own. Finally God brought me to this place where I got the truth I needed to go forward.
After that incident, we both noticed a difference in the way I related to my dad(s), and to God as my father. But this story, like others I’ve shared, isn’t just about me.
You have a father who loves you. He wants to be with you, and he’s patiently, repeatedly given you directions to reach him. But directions weren’t enough. So he came to get you. He doesn’t just want to lead you. He wants to accompany you.
When have you felt hopelessly lost? What areas of your life do you cycle back through, again and again? How has God revealed himself to you in those areas?