When I graduated high school I received a simple plaque from the greeting card store that has adorned my desk ever since. The friend who gave it to me likely never knew how much I admired her. As so often happens with high school friends, our promises to write every single week got lost in our mutual desire to do well in our studies. I often think of her, because even then she was a woman of grace and charm and fierce determination. She was someone I wanted to be like, a young woman who had it all together when I was still trying to determine both what “it” was, and where “it” had been scattered. Barb was planning on becoming a doctor in a third world country, and I’ve no doubt she has improved the lives of thousands of people. What she may not realize is that she saved mine too, without ever once examining me.
The plaque highlights a quote by Dag Hammarskjold.
During bleak times, I’ve glanced at the faded photo and thought, “This is such a long road.” How could I possibly make it?
There are other moments though when I’ve been able to say, “That WAS such a long road.”
The difference is subtle but important, for this statement belongs to a survivor, to one who perseveres over the most difficult journeys and as a reward, has gained wisdom, courage and strength.
These are the times when I look back to realize what my road passed by, when I could see how the circumstances of my life were necessary for this particular moment. Maybe I wasn’t where I thought I was going–but here I was, exactly where I was supposed to be. God often works that way, I think. It’s very frustrating, but satisfying and soul-soothing too.
A few weeks ago I watched someone quietly celebrate such a road. This particular highway was one in need of intense repair because–as happens with many of us–deeply ingrained behaviours contributed to perpetual potholes that had become increasingly difficult to fill, and these in turn caused problems for everyone.
How tedious the process of directing traffic away, scraping that road to the base structure, rebuilding the layers, and finally, resurfacing it before testing with traffic again. Of course, the road intersects with others, but it is a private road–and the bulk of the work must be done privately too. It cannot be rushed, nor will it survive procrastination. No amount of saying what should be done, or could be done, or must be done will develop the muscles to get it done.
In this case, muscles were beautifully contoured as new skills were learned. One day an observer provided an unsolicited comment about the new road, and how fine the work was–and for the first time, the person stopped hating the journey. It had been long, but finally it had been worth it.
There was joy, and there was deep contentment in that realization. It was, I think, paired with a release of fear and some excitement for what the next journey might bring.
After all, the long road had been survived. Something quite beautiful could be around the bend.