Eighteen hours into a twenty-hour road trip from our door to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, my high spirits tumbled at the sight of a sign. A happy-looking sign, it cast a shadow on my plan to get off the road and onto the trail as quickly as possible. It read: Expect delays and great scenery.
It was a road construction sign in disguise. And I understood why.
In Iowa, where I live, open roads and flat terrain allow travelers in construction zones to slow more often than stop. When a full stop is required, it’s usually short, and governed by a traffic light rather than a pilot car. Pilot cars are more common in the mountains, where the roads are winding, the stops long, and patience is not simply a virtue—it’s a survival skill.
That day in the mountains, I was all about the scenery. I was there for the scenery. I just wasn’t interested in delays. Of any kind.
The me I take on vacation is not that dissimilar from the me that lives at home. No version of me likes to wait. For anything.
But you know what? We didn’t have to. Before long we were out on the trail, the sign nothing more than a distant memory.
After a busy day of seeing and doing All The Things, we were late in setting out for Bridge Bay campground to procure a campsite for the night. After a summer season of working in the park, I knew the hard truth about camping: Yellowstone’s campgrounds fill early. Securing a site is better done early in the day than late.
Within just a couple miles of the campground, we found ourselves in a long, snaking line of stationary vehicles. It didn’t have the look of one of Yellowstone’s bear-induced traffic jams but we couldn’t see the source of the blockage. We had no idea what the holdup was. We didn’t know how long we would be sitting there, waiting, and my angst about not finding a campsite was increasing by the minute. After a while, J–always more easy-going than I– suggested we turn around and make dinner at a small picnic area overlooking the lake just a few miles back.
I was torn. I could embrace the delay and enjoy the scenery or I could insist that we stay put and watch the clock.
I didn’t want to embrace the day or enjoy the scenery. I wanted–I expected–to go where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do. Now. Not later. This is a hard truth to face, one I might not so easily recognize in the familiar landscape of my life. God, though, he uses simple things in beautiful places to help me see things differently.
We turned around.
In the waning light, my husband and I carted our Coleman stove and our cooler to a table on a bluff overlooking Yellowstone Lake. I browned pinenuts and prepared pasta to the soundtrack of waves meeting the shore, and J explored in his natural habitat: the rocks above the water. An hour later, when the snarled traffic finally loosened, freeing vehicles to whiz by, we lingered in our solitary place among the pines long after our leisurely dinner was done.
The delay short-circuited not only my habitual hurry but also my expectation of doing what I wanted when I wanted. It allowed me to see past the clock to the scenery, to enter into the moment instead of simply passing through. And it was good.
We’ve been navigating–we’re still navigating–a collective delay, one that’s still challenging my desire to walk according to my own itinerary, reminding me that we’re always waiting for something, for some One, and demonstrating that His timing is perfect even when it’s uncomfortable.
Embrace the delays. Expect God to use simple things to help you see things differently. And enjoy the scenery.
And you? What is God showing you as you make your way through the landscape of your life?God, though, he uses simple things in beautiful places to help me see things differently. Click To Tweet
This is an updated version of The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery, posted previously on natalieogbourne.com.