We might not know where we’re going, but God does.
“Sweetheart, the map is not wrong.”
“Tim. It is. We followed exactly the roads indicated on this map and here we are.”
“Nic, clearly we didn’t.”
Tim and I, barely thirty years old and just days into our new marriage, were standing at the top of the Waimea Canyon at a dead end road squarely in the middle of Nowhere, Kauai, Hawaii. We were nowhere near the visitor center and trailhead that were supposed to be right here.
“That’s why I’m saying the map is wrong. We turned at the third tiny road to the left, then again to the right at the second smaller road, and here we are. Obviously, they did not draw on every tiny trail and road on the map and that is why we are here. It wasn’t me.”
“Okay, Sugar, I understand.”
“Don’t do that! I know you’re just humoring me! The map is wrong. Do you see how the map is wrong?”
“I do, Nic. I really do.” Never mind the smirk on Tim’s face.
That was February of 2002. And although I admit I have an awful sense of direction, I did have my road in life mapped out. My road was the one where I go to college, meet a nice boy, get married, work a bit, have four adorable babies, live in the northeast suburbs my whole life, and raise these kiddos with my husband until they’re off on their own.
But clearly my map was wrong. Just 14 short years later after our wedding, after we played soccer in the rain with our kids and their pals, Tim left the field in his truck with our littlest son. Our two middle children and I followed in a vehicle behind. His last words to me were, “Follow me. I don’t know where I’m going.” Minutes later my children and I hugged and cried as our 45-year-old vibrant, faithful, genuine, kind, joyful, funny, strong, ambitious husband and daddy passed away on the grass in front of us from a sudden massive heart attack.
That road definitely was not on my map. My road was to be the smooth one that Tim and I had agreed on—the one on which we’d grow old together. The one where Tim, body worn but mind sharp, would boss me around as I, strong in body but absent-minded, would push him in a wheelchair and threaten to send him down a hill when he got too sassy (because we knew he would be). It was a joyful, safe, familiar road.
Never in my mind’s eye did I imagine that the pleasant road we were on would turn so abruptly, so frightening, so dark and lonely, for me to travel alone as a heartbroken, too-young widow. Never did I expect to plunge into valleys so deep that only God’s outstretched hand would enable me to climb out—not for me but for the sake of my tender kids who needed me. Nor did I anticipate it could be followed by such beauty that I never would have seen before the dark parts of the journey forced me to travel closer to the light of Jesus.
With Jesus, I can be brave enough to look at the road just within my view, not straining to anticipate the curves or speeding up or slowing down. But I can’t see too far ahead. My journey, with only Jesus as my guide, would reveal blessings of faith, courage, strength, and perspective I never knew possible. But none of this was on my map.
Discovering a new road
New Year’s Eve 2017 also wasn’t on my map. An amazing man invited me and my little passengers on a completely new road that we would travel together. That night, in front of hundreds of Carnival cruise ship passengers, Greg got down on one knee and proposed to me. And I joyfully and emotionally said that I would gladly travel this road with him, wherever it may take us.
As I plan to marry this good man God so unexpectedly put in my path, I know now more than ever that God lights our path and reveals the way forward if we just trust in him and the perfection of his map for us. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared as I try to map out this new journey. I’m scared for my ability to help my kids understand, accept, or even love this path. I’m scared that others will misinterpret or even judge how quickly this change in course came about. I’m scared of what life change this brings and how we’ll stand up under it as we’ve already been through so much. I’m scared of how much I love Greg and how vulnerable it feels to feel this way again, even as I continue to nurse a broken heart that will always love Tim.
Trusting in God’s path
But then I remember that drawing the map is not my responsibility. The major milestones on my map belong to God. If I continue to lean on him, my fear calms and trust and optimism replace it. Trust that God brought Greg and I together and blessed us with this unexpected and beautiful love. Trust that together we can navigate this ruggedly beautiful road because our hearts first belong to God and then to one another and our children. Trust that no matter how challenging the terrain gets or how uncertain that next turn seems, God will light the way and fill us with all that we need. Optimism that we’ll blend our Brady bunch together and create a faith-filled, loving, fun family life that will bless not only us, but also others we meet along the way. Optimism that although my children and I loved where God originally put us on the map and it’s easy to want to stay put to avoid bumps along that way, that we’ll instead look ahead to all the goodness that awaits us. Optimism that we’ll continue to be humbled and overwhelmed by God’s goodness, faithfulness, kindness, creativity, and brilliance, as we remember he’s led us through so many miles already. We’re clinging tightly to his hand as we’re “comin’ in hot” around this new curve, and we realize there really is no place for fear when we are focused on God and his path for us.
So as we continue our journey, I thank God for the sweet gift of the miles I traveled with Tim at my side. I thank him for the unexpected gift of Greg on this new leg of our journey. And most of all I thank him that I trust his map isn’t wrong, that by guiding me through the rockiest parts he’s blessed me with confidence to follow.
After all, contrary to what I may like to think, I don’t always know where I’m going. What I do know, without a doubt, is that it’s bound to be a beautiful and exciting ride.
Nicole Peterson is a member at Bethlehem, Lakeville, Minnesota.
Listen to a radio interview conducted with Nicole one year after her husband’s death. Find the link at wels.net/forwardinchrist.
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Author: Nicole Peterson
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018
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