Francis Campbell: Follow God’s direction at life’s crossroads

  • August 13, 2018

By the time this scribbling reaches publication online and in print, our long summer journey will be more than half completed.

My son, in his mid-20s, will attend the Toronto Film School in the fall. All of his communication with the school has been by email or telephone thus far, so we decided to have a look at the institution and the city he will call home for the next few years. With that in mind, and with the goal of either finding a place for him to live or at least scoping out potential dwellings, plans for a road trip came to hasty fruition. 

I have been on longer road trips but this will be my son’s longest highway odyssey. It seems that we have been conditioned and predestined for such trips. Life, after all, is a long journey with endless crossroads that force us to make decisions. At each crossroad, the path not followed is often lost forever. The trail chosen leads to more crossroads, more decisions and more life-altering turns.

My son has already negotiated at least a pair of significant crossroads. He twice enrolled at Nova Scotia universities to pursue two different programs. Both times he decided those programs were not for him. Would it have been better to continue the journey even without the expectation that it would not lead him where he wanted to go? No, he made the right choices.

Now it’s time for a journey from small-town Nova Scotia to our country’s largest metropolis.

Planning the trip, I reverted to the cheap, or its euphemistic cousin, the thrifty. I spent hours online chasing down inexpensive accommodations in and around Quebec City for our first overnight stop and then for our short stay in Toronto before moving on to spend a couple of nights with family in southwestern Ontario. We also packed a cooler with drinks, snacks and food for sandwiches. Stopping for gas is inescapable but we will be travelling at speeds that optimize gas mileage.

Then, there’s the GPS, the global positioning system. Although the GPS cannot offer us a cheaper or shorter route, it will be a very useful tool when we arrive at those destinations. 

Visiting a busy inner-city parish in Halifax for a recent weekend Mass, the assistant pastor talked about GPS and our dependence on the system. He spoke of being invited to supper at a parishioner’s home on a Saturday evening after Mass. The priest and the pastor were both invited but took separate vehicles because of separate commitments afterwards.

The assistant said he drove behind the pastor and both had their GPS gadgets working. The pastor, said his assistant, turned onto the street that preceded the turnoff directed by the GPS. He must know where he is going, thought the assistant, so he followed the pastor the length of a dead-end street. They wheeled around, went back to where they had turned off and proceeded to follow the GPS instructions to reach the supper destination in short order.

When the assistant questioned his pastor about turning off prematurely, the pastor said he thought he knew better than the GPS.

In his homily, the assistant pastor likened the GPS story to our journey of life. When we ignore or do not listen for direction from God, we make wrong turns. Those turns can lead us to crossroads where neither direction seems like it will take us to where we want or need to go.

Our bags are packed, the thrifty cooler is ready and the GPS is programmed. Now we just have to stay alert, follow directions and take the road often travelled. Still, no matter the depth of preparation and planning, the journey into a big city is intimidating for suburban Nova Scotia dwellers. 

Like the journey of life, God often sends us into places where we are not entirely comfortable. We have to trust that my son made the appropriate decisions that eventually led him to downtown Toronto. 

The journey of life is always filled with curves, abrupt stops, warnings to go back and swerve to your right or left. The best we can do is to pray for and listen closely for the direction of God and be ready to swing into the lane we are being ushered into. 

(Campbell is a reporter at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.)