After the first leg of a whirlwind trip to the city, I thought I had experienced my one, much-anticipated “mom got lost” moment. With that out of the way, we could carry on without incident and arrive at my friend’s house, then the ferry, then my daughter’s university, as directed by the map. Let’s just say that God wanted to teach me about asking for help and relying on his strength. I never thought of weakness as another word for dejection or humiliation, but I was soon to receive a clear understanding.
My daughter and I left home at 2:30 in the afternoon, headed west across beautiful mountains, through major city traffic, to a little town I had visited many times — about four and a half hours on a good day, or six hours with traffic.
Good friends live there, but I had only ever driven to this area with my husband. He could give me directions or take the wheel. No problem. This is a man who could visit a place once and still find his way 15 years later. True story.
My daughter and I were doing fine until the last exit. Having crawled through thick traffic to the final turn-off, I failed to take it. Actually, the printed directions did not provide clear details about the last exit, and I passed it. Here is the thing about city driving: all roads are divided by concrete blocks and ditches and fences and more cars. You can’t just do a U-turn.
So, we had to find a quiet place to pull over and call our friends and ask for directions, which they kindly provided. Half an hour later, we were relaxing in their kitchen. I’m thankful that, the next morning, we only had to follow a straight line to reach the ferry.
But getting off the ferry at the other end, I missed the university turn-off and we drove right into the heart of another busy city (no U-turns there either) where I found a garage and two lovely people graciously and patiently provided directions. In fact, the lovely lady even said, “And if you end up back here, I’ll drive you myself!”
Her stellar directions got me to where I wanted to be. I was so nervous about my faulty internal GPS that we stayed really close to my baby’s (sob) new rental after that and we didn’t explore much during the four hours we had to wait before she was allowed to move in. All we did was visit grocery stores and a mall where I also got lost and couldn’t find my car.
On the way home, I was given excellent directions but turned right when I was supposed to turn left, which took me 20 minutes in the opposite direction of the ferry terminal (which I realized when I ended up in a small town I did not recall passing when we arrived that morning).
Then, after a delayed ferry journey, I started to drive back to my friends’ house. This was 11 p.m., and I did not see a fork in the road near their turn-off. My friend also forgot about it and felt bad for not warning me.
I found myself on the highway heading home (five hours away) in the middle of the night. Remember those cement barriers? I pulled over to call and let them know, but they insisted on coming out and piloting me home (it was now 11:30 p.m.).
Then, on the way home the next day, instead of staying in the left-hand lane as directed, I turned left, and this same friend came out to get me again. I was a nervous wreck for five hours; until I could see the signs for my small town telling me I was an hour away from home. At least I was able to find my tub and bubble bath upon arrival.
Troubling Other People
I don’t mind being asked for help, but I strongly dislike asking for help myself. This is a familiar refrain — I hear it from people all the time. Many of us dislike being needy because we don’t want to put people out, and my friend piloted me 45 minutes out of her way then turned around and went 45 minutes home. She insisted “this is what I love to do.” She loves, loves to help.
At the gas station, two people had a job to do but they stopped their tasks not only to help but to do so in a friendly, unrushed manner. These days especially, many people seem so hurried and stressed and unhappy. Grumpy.
Nerves are stretched. Between Covid, and then the fires, which have engulfed our province, it’s hard to approach a stranger for help for fear of how they will respond, and I’m not even shy. I don’t take a stranger’s bad temper personally (unless I’m hangry).
These individuals were more than nice; they defied social norms and my expectations, reasonable as they are. I expected my friend to just give me some ideas of how to turn around; she did way more than that, without a suggestion of feeling hassled. Her kindness was exceptional.
Hurting My Pride
Sure, I was concerned about wasting someone else’s time, but my pride was also damaged. Calling my friend literally two minutes away from her house and saying, “I’m already lost” was humiliating. Not only did I drag her away from her home, but here I couldn’t even direct myself in a straight line for two minutes.
Two minutes. I mean, yes, my confidence was shot, I was tired, and the area was unfamiliar, but I didn’t trust myself anymore. I kept remembering “in my weakness, he is strong.” I kept remembering “my friend loves me, she is not mad, she might laugh, but that’s okay. She is not angry about helping me.” Paul exhorted us to lift one another up, and that’s what she was doing for me.
Lord, why can’t I do anything right? Well, I can, but I can’t do this right. My husband can, my friends can, lots of people I know can do it. They can think left, right, up, down, north, south, etc., and remember where they are in relation to everywhere else. I cannot do that. I try, and I try, and I cannot do that. And I panic because I literally need that audio GPS.
My pride is such a distorter of the truth. It says, “I want to be right all the time so I can be as good as other people.” It says, “I can’t make any mistakes or I’m a failure.” I make mistakes and they gutted me, just gutted me.
At weekends, when my boss has days off, I’m the unofficial supervisor, and I have to say all the right things, make no mistakes, be perfect for her. If she comes in and anything is slightly wrong, I want to die. I feel like I let her down, while she’s going “it’s okay Candice. No big deal.”
But when my daughter is frustrated and worried that I’ll panic, I feel like a loser. A total waste of skin. She should be able to rely on me to do more than point and steer.
What is God thinking as I sit in my car holding back tears, 180 degrees in the opposite direction of my destination, with no idea which way is North? (Don’t say “just follow the mountains.” This is British Columbia. All mountains, all the time, in every direction, except when you hit the sea).
My Weakness, God’s Strength
If I was another person talking to myself, I would remind myself of the truth:
1. Psalm 37:23 tells me, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.” The direction, which matters most is the pathway to Christ. He is at the front, and I follow him. Getting lost does not indicate that I have ceased to follow the Lord. Getting lost is not a sin. If I had not prepared (which I did, but I still need extra help), that would have been different.
2. “If we were ‘strong,’ we might take charge of our own fortune and turn back the emerging hardship and change circumstances so that they go the way we want them to and not force us into discomfort.” John Piper was discussing 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.
Paul was aware that his suffering had a purpose: “to keep me from becoming conceited.” Hardship in the case of my panicked traveling experiences, where I felt trapped and lost and worthless, reminded me that I needed help. I need help all the time.
3. ”From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). He sent helpers, but ultimately God is my rescuer. He is always with me. When I humble myself, he will lead me. I come full circle, finding my help when I delight in the Lord who wants to direct my steps. He delights to do this.
Weak in the Fortress
One last and important point: my weakness is a chance for God to remind me that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is a mighty fortress exactly where I am, and he is exalted. I’m still going to invest in a navigational device for driving, but Lord, I pray, never let me forget that the GPS, which matters most is already in me — your Spirit.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.