I was driving to work with a friend the other day. “If you turn here, you can take the back roads,” he said.
“Back roads?” I asked. “ I had no idea.”
I had already finished my coffee and also managed to squeeze in a walk, so I decided I could add a little adventure to my list of accomplishments that morning as I pulled into the turn lane.
“It’s a great shortcut. Take a right at the light but stay in the left lane because the right lane ends,” he said. “Okay, now go through the first stop sign and then you’ll take a left at the next one.”
Sure enough, he knew exactly where he was going. He knew which unmarked roads led to the other unmarked roads which led to our destination. It was peaceful. No traffic. One single stoplight. A paved trail ran parallel to the road, along the edge of a forest preserve, welcoming avid cyclists as they began their day. It was quiet. Purple, yellow and white dripping-with-dew wildflowers lined the road. Might I get all girly for a minute, it.was.just.beautiful.
“Whadcha think? Faster?” he asked, as we found a parking spot.
“Faster. Peaceful. Prettier. Quieter. It’s a winner,” I said.
Since that day, I’ve been taking the back roads. Every morning, I look forward to inching my way through the construction traffic and making the initial turn onto the back roads. I feel like I’m on a secret route that only the locals know. Like I’ve been here long enough to be able to get from A to B without relying on Google Maps (because once you’ve been led astray by iPhone nav, you don’t make that same mistake twice).
Learning the back roads takes time. It means you’ve been around for a while. That you know the place well. The back roads aren’t usually well-traveled or well-known, but there is rich beauty there. The back roads add mystery and depth to communities filled with highways and byways used by people busily scurrying through their lives.
And the other day, I got to thinking. We all have friends, people in our lives, neighbors, workout partners, work friends, the family that always sits behind us at church on Sundays and what was their little boys name again? We know the bank tellers face, but for the life of us, can’t remember her name. And that family at gymnastics or soccer or school. We spend our days interacting with people on the highways and byways of our lives. We go fast and furious, and if you’re anything like me, the task at hand becomes the focus and the people become the afterthought.
However. It is my friends, MY PEOPLE, my village who I love the most and need the most. Who I’m completely honest and transparent and vulnerable with. Who see my tears of both joy and exhaustion. Who know my greatest triumphs and my greatest fears. Those friends know my back roads.
With those friends, I don’t just know about them and they don’t know about me, I know what makes them tick, what brings them joy. I’ve been around long enough to discover their less traveled and strikingly beautiful roads and they’ve found mine, weeds and wildflowers and all.
I don’t know about your schedule, but I sometimes feel like I don’t have time to discover or invest in many more deeper friendships. And not because I don’t want more friends, but I have bills and a kiddo and work and a house and groceries and all of the things, after all.
But. But, but, but….the crazy, crazy thing, that I am reminded of each morning: Like some of the best ironies of life that just don’t always add up, is that in spite of our chaotic schedules and to-do lists, investing in people, and I mean really, really, really diving in and seeing and knowing people, much like taking the back roads, ends up getting us “there” faster in the end.
And here is my theory about why: Jesus always cares more about his people, his village, his kids, than he does about our to-do lists, our activities, our schedules, jobs or all of our things.
He wants us to love him and love each other. That’s it. I think He wants us to linger with people long enough to find their back roads and then travel them often, weeds and wildflowers and all.