Monday, September 02, 2013

30 is the new 40! (It's not what you think.)

We got back from PEI a little over a week ago.  We've made at least 25 trips there and back in as many years, so it's become a pretty familiar 1500 kilometres.  But the Montreal stretch of the trip is always stressful.  Highway 40 winds right through the city of Montreal, three lanes the whole way, with tight off-and-on ramps, hairpin twists, and a healthy percentage of drivers whose cars don't appear to have turn signals installed.  It's an hour of tense bumper-to-bumper driving with me navigating and saying things like "This is where two lanes go off to the left, you'd better get to the right!" and "As soon as we get off this ramp we have to get in the centre lane right away!!" 

Although we've never had any accidents or mishaps, this is always the part of the trip we just wish was over -- or even better, that we could avoid entirely.

When we arrived in PEI we were talking about the drive and someone said, "Why don't you try the new bypass?"  "NEW BYPASS?" we asked, wide-eyed.  Yes, the newly-completed Highway 30 now goes completely around the city to the south, connecting 20 on the west side to 20 on the east; there's no need to go anywhere near the dreaded Highway 40 if you don't want to.

On our return journey, we eagerly awaited the exit to Highway 30 so we could see for ourselves what the fuss was about.  "Follow that car!" I said when we reached Exit 98 ... and suddenly our whole travel experience changed.  Highway 30 was quiet, taking a long, actually fairly boring loop around the south end of the city.  Did I say boring?  Bring it on!  It was great:  an hour of relaxed, calm travel compared to an hour of white-knuckle lane changes.  And the toll:  one dollar and fifty cents.  I'd probably have paid twenty dollars without hesitation.  It looks like our trips to and from PEI will be quite different from now on without the dreaded Montreal Factor.

This got me thinking about the journey of life.  I wondered what would happen if someone told me, "All those stressful, painful parts of life?  Guess what?  You don't have to go through those!  You can just take The Bypass; it's quiet, inexpensive, and stress-free."

Sounds appealing, doesn't it?  Who wouldn't choose easy and calm over stressful and tense?  But if I stop and think about it, I realize that many -- though of course not all -- of the difficult or stressful things in life also have a good side.  So if I chose to avoid the difficult parts I would also miss the positive ones.  If I had been able to say, "Having special needs kids sounds awfully challenging; I think I'll pass," Allison and Jonathan would not exist in this world -- and that's unimaginable!  Besides, decisions like that rarely affect just one person; ripples would go out from me to many other people whose lives would be affected by what I chose.  That's a huge responsibility.

In any case, it's kind of a moot point because in most of the important areas of life we aren't given that kind of choice between hard and easy.  And even in the areas where we do have a choice -- after all, as human beings we do have a great deal of freedom -- we don't always see the whole picture.  We might make a decision based on something that seemed vitally important at the time, only to realize later that that factor was actually pretty insignificant.

When I look at other people's lives from the outside I can't help noticing that some seem more like smooth, relaxing Highway 30's while others are more like tense, white-knuckle 40's.  I don't know why that is:  I don't think it's because person A decided to take the easy road and person B opted for the wild ride -- but I'm equally sure that it isn't because God said, "Wouldn't it be fun if I sent Mary some cancer and let John win the lottery?"  Why people experience what they do in life is a mystery I don't feel qualified to plumb.

I wasn't given any choice in the most challenging aspects of my life, and ultimately I'm grateful that I wasn't.  I don't know if I would have made the right decisions; I'm not even sure I would have chosen for the right reasons.  When it comes right down to it, I think it's better to have faith in God even in the unknown than put all my trust in my own ability to choose the right path.

So today I'm sharing the words of the hymn "This Day God Gives Me" because it is a song about trust in a God who is good.

This Day God Gives Me 

This day God gives me strength of high heaven, 
Sun and moon shining, flame in my hearth,
Flashing of lightning, wind in its swiftness,
Deeps of the ocean, firmness of earth.
 
This day God sends me strength as my guardian,
Might to uphold me, wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful, Your ears are listening,
Your lips are speaking, Friend at my side.
 
God’s way is my way, God’s shield is ’round me,
God’s host defends me, saving from ill.
Angels of heaven, drive from me always
All that would harm me:  stand by me still.
 
Rising I thank You, Mighty and Strong One,
King of Creation, Giver of Rest,
Firmly confessing God in three Persons,
Oneness of Godhead, Trinity blest.


16 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! For the by pass tip for our next trip East but also for some excellent thoughts and challenges to begin this next "season".

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    1. You're welcome, Wendy! Thanks for commenting; it is really neat to get connected with you over Facebook and here. And next time you go East, just keep the number 30 in mind!

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    2. Thank you so much Jeannie, for the encouragement you gave me with your blog today! I'm sure that most of us would not choose the difficult things in life but they are the things that draw us nearer to our heavenly father, if we are responding in the way that He would have us to respond. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law just traveled down from Peterborough and were also thrilled with the ease of traveling around Montreal. Yeah!!

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    3. Thanks so much for commenting, Sue-Anne (and for sharing my link on FB). I hope those Montrealers don't get a complex about our dislike for their city -- hey, it's not the city, just the highway!!

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  2. Beautiful in all regards... love your perspective, Jeannie. An inspiration, a blessing you are.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy -- have a blessed day!

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  3. I agree completely about missing out on positives if we were to avoid the negatives. This makes me think of an experience I had when my mother-in-law was in palliative care. She was very near the end of this journey of life, quite frail, and unable to speak. We weren't particularly close but I loved her all the same for who she was to my husband and to my children, even if it couldn't be for a relationship I longed to have with her. I sat by her bedside, holding her hand and my then spouse said to me, it is time we headed home. I started to cry (still do when I think of this moment), looked my mother-in-law in the eyes and said "I bet you didn't know I love you this much". I started to stand and my mother-in-law didn't let go of my hand but instead pulled me back down and looked hard into my face. Without words, I knew she was telling me how much she loved me too. It was a moment that allowed a great deal of healing in my heart before she passed away and I will always cherish and be grateful for that. I'd like to think she was glad to have had that moment as well. So yes, I agree, to avoid pain may mean missing out of special moments as well. I'd just like to add that it is always our choice in how we react to events that happen. Perhaps that outlook is what aids in bringing about a more smooth journey. It's an outlook I wish I was more skilled at adopting in life but I'm a work in progress :) Thanks for this blog today Jeannie, it provided lots of food for thought.

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    1. Pam, thanks so much for sharing this experience. You're right: you'd have missed out on a beautiful, loving moment if you had not had the hard part. You had the courage to be there at a difficult moment AND the courage to speak from the heart to her; not everyone can do that, and sometimes those moments slip by and don't return. It's true that how we respond makes such a difference; we always have a choice in that. You're a person who keeps your heart open no matter what, and I really admire that! xo Jeannie

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  4. So true and well said, Jeannie. Thank you for your words and for the song.

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    1. Thanks, Lori. So nice seeing you on the weekend; I hope September gets off to a great start for you.

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  5. Great post! Loved to hear about your travel experience this month too!
    Isn't it amazing how we struggle through most of life and then, every now and then, there is a reward of ease!? Now, may highway 30 be your road of ease, a reward for all those rough times of necessity, to ensure our priorities are right, our faith is honed and our relationships valued.
    I think if we never get the rough, we don't really value the s-m-o-o-t-h!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah -- totally agree with your last sentence!!

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  6. Jeannie, you rocked it with that highway analogy. And the thing I like about traveling along through life is knowing that God is with me no matter which road I'm on at the moment.

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    1. That's so reassuring, Tim. Even when we take the wrong exit which, on occasion, happens to (ahem) the best navigators. :-)

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  7. Love your post Jeannie...I've always said that the hardest lessons we learn are the ones we wished we would have learned in a book...but that's not really how life works!

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    1. That would be so much easier, wouldn't it? :-) Thanks, Jamie.

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