Knowing When to Turn Back

Let’s just say that being a grandparent and being a grownup do not always have the same goals. Our plan for last Friday was to drive to Dallas, to DFW Airport, for an interview with Homeland Security for Trusted Traveler Program approval, and then on to Mansfield for the weekend to be part of our granddaughter Madden’s 5th birthday party.

We left Midland at 6:30 AM, driving on slightly slick snowy roads, and made it around Loop 250 to I-20 feeling bold and confident. The road conditions were not excellent, butMadden 3 they were passable, and I drove 40 mph hoping for clear traveling ahead. Maybe we would catch up to the edge of this slow-moving storm which hadn’t yet reached Dallas or Ft. Worth.

Traffic was very light, and the right hand lane of I-20 was mostly clear. However, the wipers and defrosters wouldn’t keep up with ice on the windshield and we had to stop a couple of times to scrape if off. Luckily we had two ice scrapers, so Cyndi and I would jump out and scrape each sides of the windshield and then jump back in, like a NASCAR pit crew.

After we left Big Spring the road conditions quickly deteriorated. Apparently the snow plow driver that had cleared the lane from Midland stopped in Big Spring for breakfast. Even worse, the traffic volume doubled, mostly big trucks driving entirely too fast since they didn’t have their family on board and thought they were invulnerable.

Our son Byron texted that snow had started to fall in north Dallas, so our hopes of clear driving were over. We phoned daughter Katie who had driven to work on clear roads but was now watching it snow outside her office window.

At Coahoma we decided the appropriate grownup decision was to turn around and go back home. It had taken us 1-1/2 hours to drive 50 miles, and traffic was slowing down even more. We’d have to tell our little girl happy birthday on FaceTime.

The drive home gave me plenty of time to think about our decision to turn around and how it mirrored so many other decisions we make in life.

How do we know when to turn back or when to move forward in faith in spite of the circumstances? How do we know how far to push into adversity and keep going, or when the grownup decision is to cut our losses, minimize future risk, turn back and go home? Do we keep moving in the same direction until receiving a specific word, or sign, from God? What is the difference between acting in faith and simply being stubborn? Or stupid?

The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer has a famous line about winning at chess, “Don’t move until you see it.” That theory of decision making works well with my engineer mind, which never wants to start a project until I can see the entire path.

But my friend Gene Abel once called me out on that when I hesitated to take a teaching opportunity at Midland College. He said, “Berry you always want to be certain of the whole path before you take your first step. Sometimes you have to start moving in faith and see what happens.”

Knowing when to go and when to stay is never easy and never clear.

snow 3Cyndi and I made the correct decision to turn around and drive back home last Friday. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to make that trip when the weather gets better. However, most of life’s decisions are not so obvious.

I believe the more we know and understand God the clearer the answer will be, but I also suspect we’ll have to step out on many plans and issues before seeing the path. The good news is, God doesn’t leave us alone to decide. If we’re seeking His will and pursuing our relationship with Him daily, then I think our default reaction to a tough decision is to trust our own hearts, where God dwells and where He most often speaks.

When a straight path appears ahead of us, we should take it. Make the move. But be prepared to stop and turn around if necessary. It may be that little out-and-back jaunt was what God wanted from us all along.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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