The Right Question
Yeah, they don’t exist in Mexico. At least not with much frequency or consistency. Which poses a small problem when you don’t have GPS, a data plan on your phone that allows you to use Google maps and you’re trying to find a place you’ve never been.
Such was the case when Natalie and I ventured out for church on Sunday morning. We did our homework, and found the only Catholic Mass in English south of the border as well as an English-speaking non-denominational service that was relatively close. As two military-trained girls, we were confident in our abilities.
We looked up the locations of each respective church, took pictures of the map and directions (so we could refer to them when we were on the road and didn’t have access to wifi) and headed fearlessly into the unknown Mexican landscape.
Finding the Catholic Church was easy – it was right off the main road. Finding Calvary Chapel proved to be much more difficult.
“We’re looking for Calle Articulo Tercero,” Natalie informs me as we head south on the main road.
She’s the driver and I’m navigating.
Easy enough, I think. We pass one street, then another….and then another.
“Hmmm….I’m not seeing any street signs….are you?” I ask.
Natalie looks at the picture of the map on her phone while we wait at a stoplight. We’re in the general vicinity and decide to make the next right-hand turn.
She throws out another name of a street and I search diligently. But there’s not a street sign to be found.
Circles, backtracking and running into dead ends ensues. Time is ticking and if we don’t find this place soon, we’re going to miss the service.
“I think we should ask for directions,” I announce. After only two weeks of Spanish lessons, thinking I can clearly communicate or understand the language is overly ambitious to say the least, but it’s our only hope.
There’s a friendly looking woman with her young son setting up a table for the local market that we’ve somehow run into. We stop and I roll down the window.
“Perdon, Senora,” I begin. “Tengo una pregunta por favor. Donde esta la iglesia, Calvary Chapel?” (Excuse me, Miss. I have a question, please. Where is the Calvary Chapel Church?)
I’m inwardly pleased with myself. These Spanish classes are really paying off!
The woman stares at me blankly and says something that sounds like a question. I repeat the same thing, but she still looks confused. Meanwhile, eight to ten people walking to the market gather around my window and want to know what is going on.
I don’t know what they are saying but it’s clear they want to help. I decide to try one more time, “Donde esta la iglesia Calvary Chapel?”
There are more looks of confusion until the young boy’s eyes suddenly grow wide. He says something rapidly in Spanish to his Mom and then she exclaims, “Ahhh! El Chapel Calvario!”
“Si, si!” I exclaim. Finally, we’re getting somewhere!
All at once three people are talking and pointing. It’s rapid fire and all I get is that we have to go straight and take a left at some point. I nod my head feigning understanding, before I say “Gracias” and roll up the window.
Natalie looks at me hopefully…as if my three years of high school Spanish are going to save the day.
“I didn’t catch 90% of what they said, but I think it’s that way,” I say pointing behind us.
So, we pull a U-turn and continue on.
Another five minutes of wrong turns and we are clearly lost. Natalie is ready to give up, but I’m determined. “Let’s just ask one more time,” I suggest.
We spot a couple walking and pull over. I roll down the window, repeat the same question as before and decide to add at the end, “Yo hablo un poco de espanol.” (I speak a little Spanish).
I’m hoping one or both of them speaks English, but when he opens his mouth, it’s all in Spanish…and much too fast for me to decipher. I can tell he’s asked me a question but I have no idea what it is.
What I want to say is, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t understand,” or “What did you say?” But in this moment, all of these phrases escape me. Flustered, I open my mouth and say the first thing that comes to mind.“Por Que?” (Why)?
As soon as the words leave my lips I realize this makes absolutely no sense, but it’s too late.
The man looks at me, drops his head into his hands and shakes it before he starts to laugh. Even Natalie knows this is the wrong response and she’s laughing too.
“No comprendo!” I offer quickly, trying to salvage some of my Spanish-speaking self-respect.
“Si, claro,” he chuckles. (Yes, obviously). And now I’m laughing too.
After we regain our composure, he gives me directions I still don’t understand and we drive off. By the grace of God, we manage to find this church, attend the service and head home.
On the way back we are still amused by the whole escapade.
“Por que….por que?!?” I lament to Natalie. “That’s the best I could come up with??”
We have a good laugh about it, but after the fact I realized two things:
First of all, my Spanish skills need a LOT of work. And secondly, and more importantly, “Why?” is often not the right question to ask.
When my marriage first started unraveling, I found myself asking “Why?” a lot.
Why did this happen to me? Why did I deserve this? Why would God call me to marry a man who would hurt me so deeply? And then after it ended, Why would He allow me to suffer, telling me again and again to not quit on the marriage, all the while knowing it would eventually end in divorce?
I have my theories. Plausible ones, like I made a mistake, heard God wrong, or that my former husband had simply operated in his own free will.
Idealistic ones, like I needed to go through this storm in my life to be who I am today, or that he did.
Then there are the flat out wrong theories, like God made a mistake. Or that I was simply punished for the men’s hearts I’ve broken over the years.
But, in the end, none of those theories can be proven and what I’ve finally come to understand is that I might never know why and even if I do, it won’t change my reality. What I really need to know is “what now?”
When I finally asked God that question, I stopped feeling like a victim and finally felt empowered to take a step and move forward. Turns out He had a lot to tell me. And He still does.
Sometimes when I ask God, “What now?” I don’t quite understand His directions. Often I just have a general sense of where He’s leading. But He never laughs when I am confused or gets frustrated when I take a wrong turn. He’s the ultimate GPS. He sees the big picture, knows every possible detour and side street and as long as I follow His voice, I can know with confidence, that I’m on the right path.
Even now, as Natalie and I step out on faith to live this “Great Enlivening,” we don’t really know why God has asked us to do this, nor do we know where this journey will end. But as we continue to ask “what now,” we trust He will lead us exactly where we are supposed to go…even if it’s to a place where the streets have no names.