I had an experience this week that I hope to never repeat. A combination of bad weather, bad timing, and bad decisions made for a miserable evening this Wednesday.
The weather forecast had been predicting a snowstorm to hit Nashville on Wednesday around 4pm. They said that we might get 1-3 inches, and that the evening commute would probably be messy. Although anywhere in the north, 1-3 inches would be laughable, I have quickly discovered that it is significant here because Nashvillians are not used to treating roads, plowing roads, and driving on roads that have any snow accumulation. Basically, any accumulation has the potential to shut down the entire city, temporarily.
Wanting to be safe rather than sorry, the college that I work for decided to close early and give the students and employees an early dismissal at 1pm. At this point the sun was stills shining, not a flake in sight, so some colleagues and myself decided to grab some lunch together to kick off our 'snow half day.'
Afterwards, I decided that I would come to Panera for a bit to use the internet and just hang out for a bit. After all, with no internet or cable, and a procrastinating spirit towards housework, why should I spend the rest of the afternoon stuck at home? I thought to myself.
The Panera that I usually frequent is just 5 minutes from my house -- you take the main road in Nashville, West End, and then there is just one turn to get to my place. I figured that even if it started snowing while I was out, I could get back to my place with no trouble.
So off to Panera I went, still thrilled that we had a few hours off of worked for what seemed like, no reason. Around 3pm, I started seeing a few flakes, but nothing threatening at all. I had decided to leave at 3:40pm, because I thought maybe I could make it to my gym to get a workout in before I turned in for the evening. By the time I got outside though, the snowfall had picked up significantly. So much so, that it was already starting to blanket the cars and I had to brush up an 1/2 dusting off my windshield.
When I finally got in my car and on to the main road, the traffic was already getting dense; this is the main road out of the city, and it was evident that many other downtown Nashville workers had decided to take an early mad dash out of work. After sitting in traffic for nearly 20 minutes, it was clear that I wasn't going to make it to the gym in time for the class that I had planned on. Oh well, I would just go straight home.
That's when I got the "brilliant" idea to try and take a shortcut. Important side note: I have almost solely relied on my GPS when trying new routes in Nashville, and have a horrible sense of direction. But I figured that I could just wing it this time, turn onto a parallel road, avoid the glut of traffic on the main road, and then turn back to the main road right before I needed to turn onto my road.
Bad idea. Really bad idea.
As I turned off the main road, the snow was getting heavier and heavier. It was also clear that the roads had not been plowed or salted at all. I was slipping and sliding on a sheer sheet of ice. After about 10 minutes of driving around a neighborhood, I realized that I was completely lost, and completely had no idea where I was. I finally pulled to the side of my road to seek the advice from my GPS, which unhelpfully told me to take a bunch of back streets and then get on the highway. I didn't dare take unknown backroads for fear that I would get stuck or skid off the road.
At this point I seriously considered parking my car and walking home; but it would be about 4 miles. I wasn't quite that desperate yet. So instead I tried to get my GPS to take me via a route that I knew would be well-traveled, and hopefully, a little less icy.
Thankfully, I was able to get to that road safely, but the worst was not over. I sat on that road, in the height of rush hour, for a full two hours. This route would usually take me a few minutes. The roads were a complete bottleneck, though, and it would be 10 times that the light in front of me would turn green before I actually got to move. I was frustrated, upset, impatient, and couldn't believe that I had gotten myself into this predicament. If only I had just stayed on the main road! I thought to myself, exasperated. I would have been home hours ago!
The iciness continued, the traffic continued. To make a long story short, exactly 4 hours after I had left Panera, I was back to where I started. And it took me another 15 minutes to get home from there. So, a drive which normally takes me 5 minutes, took me over 4 hours.
What a nightmare! It was really an awful experience, but I am just grateful that I got home safely.
As I drove past my originally starting point, I thought to myself, "I bet there must be an analogy in the spiritual life to this."
I think that it taught me that just because you think you are taking a shortcut, that you will get to your destination sooner, you might be completely mistaken. If we choose to stray from the path that the Lord has set out for us, trying to get what we want faster, trying to hurry His plans for us, we can end up taking a very unpleasant detour. And if we would have just stayed on His path to begin with, we would be so much better off.
It's 60 degrees and sunny today. Thank the Lord.