The Road to Nowhere

The tunnel on The Road to Nowhere, Swain County, NC

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 NIV

Eighty years ago private landowners in Swain County, NC, were forced to give up their property, which had been in their families for generations, when the government created the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Entire communities had to relocate. Access to ancestral burial grounds was lost when the Fontana Dam was built and the route was submerged beneath the waters of a vast manmade lake.

To appease the people, the government promised to build a road through the park that would give them access to the ancient cemeteries. And so construction on Lakeview Drive began—and halted six miles into the park when environmental issues arose. The promised road ended with a tunnel and has remained that way to this day.

Although eventually the environmental issues were resolved and the feds paid the county $52 million in lieu of finishing the road, the locals, feeling betrayed, renamed Lakeview Drive to “The Road to Nowhere.” A sign was erected: “Welcome to The Road to Nowhere. A Broken Promise. 1943 – ?”

We visited The Road to Nowhere several years ago during our camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we walked through the dank, dark tunnel. True, the paved road ended when we emerged on the other side, but I wouldn’t call it “nowhere.” Golden trees framed hiking trails that wound through the mountains. True, this wasn’t what was promised, but it is what it is.

Life can be like that. Sometimes the road we’re on doesn’t lead us to where we expect or where we want to go. Sometimes we run into a dead end. Broken promises break our hearts and our trust. We can’t see how we can go on.

But it doesn’t lead to nowhere. All roads lead to somewhere. Just sometimes not where we’d chosen.

The older I get, the more I understand the wisdom of accepting and adapting. And moving on.

I’m not saying it’s easy—giving up those dreams, rebuilding your life after hope has been shattered.

But it can be done—with guts, gumption, grit—and God.

You see, I believe in a God who can transform what’s bad in your life into something good, what’s broken into something usable. A God who can turn your weakness into His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9) and loves you far beyond what you can comprehend (Romans 8:35–39).

He’s always in your corner (Romans 8:31) and wants to bless you exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He’s a faithful Father who showers you with fresh mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and who doesn’t break promises (2 Timothy 2:13).

So, dear child of God, “do not fear. Do not let not your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives great victory. He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on the day of a festival” (Zephaniah 3:16–17)

Remember that it’s God who’s in control, no matter what road you find yourself on.

Remind me, Lord, as I walk this uncertain road called life, that every road I walk with You will lead to somewhere wonderful. Amen.

The Road to Nowhere, Swain County, NC

Read and reflect on Lamentations 3:19–26

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

In Midian

Mount Nebo
Photo by Berhold Werner (Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. – Proverbs 19:21(RSV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

Moses—now there was a man who had it all—prosperity, power, prestige. But this prince of Egypt, thanks to his impulsive nature and nasty temper, became a refugee, fleeing for his life in disgrace and fear. Instead of a palace, the wilderness. No longer the proud prince, but a lowly shepherd. Talk about culture shock.

I wonder, as he tended sheep in the godforsaken desert and on the lonely mountainsides of Midian, did he think he was all washed up? A has-been? That the best part of his life was over? How long did it take him to stop missing the splendor, the hype? Did he feel as though he lost his purpose?

Then, after 40 years, Mission Impossible: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:9–10 NIV).

Oh, right. Like that was going to happen. Moses knew Pharaoh. But he didn’t know God. So he hedged. He made more excuses than a kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.

But man cannot argue with God. Well, you can, but you can’t win. For every excuse once-mighty Moses gave, God had an answer.

So Moses spent the next 40 years leading a stubborn, rebellious, cantankerous nation over one million strong through both a physical wilderness and a spiritual one. It was for this that Moses was enshrined in the famous “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11). He died a great leader with a fame that endures to this day, a fame he never could have achieved as a prince of Egypt. (Other than King Tut or Cleopatra, do you know the name of even one Egyptian royal?)

But I wonder, as he dealt with the constant complaining, the mercurial temperament of a nation whose loyalty and emotions were as fickle as an ambivalent teenager’s, as he quelled rebellion after rebellion, as he wore himself out settling their petty disputes—did he long for the quiet hillsides of Midian, tending to a flock that was undemanding, whose major flaw wasn’t stubbornness but stupidity?

Back in his heyday Moses didn’t want to rule Egypt; he wanted to rescue the Israelites. Right idea, wrong time. Moses needed to spend some time in Midian, in the wilderness classroom, to learn patience and humility. When God saw Moses was ready, He called him to his destiny, his purpose.

Sometimes we find ourselves in Midian, wondering if we’re all washed up, if somehow we missed God’s purpose for us. Or we wonder if we’re being punished. Or perfected. Oh, Lord, I’ll never be perfect! So I wonder if I’ll spend the rest of my life stuck in Midian, in a wilderness where the only attention I get is from needy sheep.

But I can’t handle the pressures Moses had when he traded his sheep for people. But then, everything that happened in Moses’ life had a purpose: to prepare him for the job God had planned for him all along. Moses wasn’t perfect when God called him—or afterwards. He blundered and thundered and made both the Almghty and the Israelites mad.

But he learned in lean times to lean on God. The leaner the time, the harder he leaned. And he learned that where God sends, He also enables and provides.

God hasn’t changed.

If you find yourself in Midian, enjoy the peace and quiet, the absence of strife and chaos. Work with God as He molds you for the job ahead. Then you might wish you were back in Midian.

But, then, it could be your job is Midian.

In that case, take to heart the words of another man who, centuries after Moses, found himself in his own Midian, a jail cell: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11 RSV).

Dear God, if I spend the rest of my life in Midian, help me to be content. Help me to know that You will fulfill Your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 2:1–3:10

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.