I had the opportunity to teach at a workshop this past Saturday for a Church in West Des Moines. They wanted me to share some of my experiences and expertise in the area of pastoral care. I only mention the expertise part because it ties into a funny story about my experience getting to the workshop and then a point I made in my teaching. I don’t really consider myself an expert at anything, although I did spend a lot of time in school and in training for pastoral care. It must be a sign of my old age (41) that other people are now starting to consider my experiences and my education to be useful.
My only experience with Iowa is that I have lived in Earlham for three and a half years. I pretty much know the Interstate system around this part of the state and I know how to get to all my favorite stores and dining establishments. I am somewhat familiar with West Des Moines, but not familiar enough to figure out which way is up when I come across a detour. I was supposed to be going to the Racoon Nature Lodge in West DSM. I thought I knew where it was, but I went ahead and printed out a map and directions from the internet just to be certain. I have complete, unabashed faith in a printed map and directions. I trust it more than I trust my experience or my gut feelings.
I learned a few things Saturday morning. One thing I learned is that there is a detour/road closed sign on Grand Ave on the East and West sides of the place I was supposed to be going to. There are no – open to thru traffic – exception signs. The East side is literally closed and is barricaded all the way across down into the ditches on both sides so there is no getting through. I know this because I checked. The West side does not say it is ok to go ahead and drive through to get to the places on the road that are beyond the detour…it just says it is detoured.
The second thing I learned is that there is a Raccoon River Park in Des Moines and Raccoon Nature Lodge in West Des Moines. Though they sound like they could be the same place, they are not. The third thing I learned is that although I had the wrong name and wrong address, the phone number was correct…go figure. Of course the young lady on the other end of the phone was only giving me landmarks I didn’t recognize, so that wasn’t helpful. After an hour I decided to go with my gut and almost ended up in Booneville. Luckily some guys were at a Landscaping business there and told me that I need to head back in the other direction and just drive through the detour signs and not worry about the road closure. He said sometimes it’s open and sometimes it’s closed but the place you want to be is beyond the detour sign. Sure enough…driving beyond the detour sign eventually led me to my destination: Raccoon River Lodge in West DSM. Wow, what an impressive place! We ought to get us one of those here in Earlham.
I was teaching my lesson and I used my driving experience as a perfect point of illustration for all these “would be” pastoral care givers: point people to Jesus. I encouraged them to make sure the people they are caring for know the source of their strength. Don’t let the care receivers build their confidence in the counseling methods or the friendship developed or the “good feelings” that can come from talking to another person about a problem. Care givers like me will eventually lead you to the wrong place and let you down even when I am considered to the expert. I had a map and some experience and still couldn’t find the correct destination. I don’t need people following me. Point people to Jesus! Follow Jesus! Don’t follow personalities, people, church buildings, denominations, friends or family: they can all end up at the wrong place and you don’t want to be following them if and when they do. You will never be dissatisfied with the places Jesus takes you to. Follow Jesus!