“… there are no wrong turns, only unexpected paths.”
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
I was reminded today of an old story, recounted by Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening. This story offers rich insight and thought-provoking questions about today’s Lenten-focus word: “PATH.”
A young man in Alaska is stranding in the bitter cold on the side of a road, holding a handmade sign reading, “MIAMI.” He has been standing there for such a long time that his frigid fingers can barely hold his sign, and he is swiftly losing hope of hitching a ride to this warm destination. After many hours, a friendly trucker stops and says, “Well, I’m not going to Miami, but I am going as far as Fort Lauderdale. Dejected, the young man says, “Oh,” and sends the trucker on his way.
My chuckle over this story is short-lived, as I realize how many times I have turned down an opportunity because it wasn’t exactly what my metaphoric handmade sign stated. How often do I lose sight of the possibilities, right where I am because I insist on all or nothing?
I am reminded of the old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Like an ancient labyrinth, I see the winding turns of my life – paths that sometimes make unexpected hair-pin turns, and then end up, after lengthy travel, in a spot that is closer to where I began than I’d like to admit. Was I looking for my own “Miami?” And, when I think about it, aside from my self-imposed cold from standing outside with my sign, wasn’t my “Alaska” a beautiful place in its own right?
And then I read Nepo’s reminder that in our lives, there are really no wrong turns. The unexpected path, when honored and journeyed, often brings us to a place that we could not have imagined. Like our young hitchhiker, perhaps our life’s purpose, or our soulmate is found someplace other than Miami.
Maybe what we need today is found right here in the path, where “X” marks the spot?