The wanderer

By Matt Potter

Radical Joy - Catholic Stewardship and Abundance

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I made a trip to Celestine from Evansville a few weeks ago to visit with some of the staff and leadership of St. Isidore the Farmer Parish. The meeting was at 10:30 Eastern time, and I left early enough to give me some leeway for unexpected delays.

I haven’t been in Evansville all that long, and there are still places I go where I find the use of a GPS invaluable. Celestine is one of those places, as it does not lie on a major thoroughfare. Rather than plod around the countryside hoping I could figure out east from west and right turns from left turns, I entered the address of the church into my GPS and headed on out the door.

My GPS had me exit I-64 at Highway 145. What it didn’t tell me was that Hwy 145 was closed a few miles from the I-64 exit. When I saw the “road closed” sign, I pulled over to evaluate my options.

I could go back to I-64 and retrace my steps to the Ferdinand exit, taking a more familiar route to my destination. I looked at the time that would take, and it would make me VERY late for my meeting. I looked at re-routing via farm roads over which I had never traveled. That would make me a little late, and it seemed to be the better option.

I sent an email to Father Jeff Read letting him know I would be a little late and why that was so, re-routed my GPS and headed into the wilderness.

Well, wilderness to me.

It is at this point, dear reader, that there is an opportunity for grace. There have been more times than one that I would have cursed my luck and driven way too fast on unfamiliar roads trying to get somewhere on time. This trip was different; I slowed down and drove the twisting, winding, narrow roads that traversed some of the most beautiful farmland I have ever seen.

I was about 10 minutes late for my meeting, but nobody held it against me. Rather than being flustered and angry, I felt refreshed and complete. If that road had not been closed, it is unlikely I would ever in my life have driven on those roads, and it would have been my loss. Grace was mine.

We can find the Lord anywhere and everywhere. On this day, I found Him on Dubois County farm roads. It’s not like there was a great flash in the sky and I had to hide my eyes. Instead, it was the evidence of careful stewardship of the land as evidenced by the well-tended farmlands and forests that surrounded me. I don’t know the farmers in the area, but I would be willing to guess that they are, in general, a faithful and faith-filled lot who understand the awesome responsibility of caring for the land that God has entrusted to them.

I don’t often find a reason to quote J.R.R. Tolkien like I did at the top of this column, but those words rang in my ears as I marveled at the undulations of the corn and bean fields, and the first leaves changing their colors on the oak, maple and walnut trees. Those foreign roads led me to St. Celestine Church, where I met with people who love God and love their parish. I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning.

Lost? Never. Wander? Always. Thanks be to God for closed roads.

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