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On Faith
The Rev. Charles Buck

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Expect some scenic routes
along the road of life

At 18, I went to Niagara Falls with a relative in Kentucky. We mapped out the most direct route and then took turns driving. As he drove, I slept; as I drove, he slept. At the falls we got out, took a picture, then got right back in the car and drove straight back to Louisville, all under 24 hours. We probably set some sort of record, but I don't remember. Indeed, apart from having done it, there isn't much about the trip I remember.

Some years later, my wife and I visited family in New York and went to Niagara Falls. The Thruway was the direct route, but we took State Route 20, marked "Scenic Route" on our map. Though it meandered across the state, it offered sights to die for: gorgeous scenery and picturesque towns, like out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We didn't make Niagara Falls that day, but the scenic route, and seeing it together, made it one of the most memorable moments in our lives.

The scenic route is a metaphor for going the long way around, the way that takes time and effort, all because things don't go according to plan or purpose. The scenic route is what many H-1 commuters took a few days before Christmas when a fatal three-car accident forced detours onto local streets and side roads. Others took the route of pulling over for supper or finishing holiday shopping.

But for all the hassle and headache, scenic routes are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, they can be providential or, as Christians say, of God's will. If we accept them, even expect them, we will find them manageable, even worth the while to take.

That's how we make good on New Year's resolutions. Few of us stick with them for any length of time, but we probably would if we realized that course adjustments are necessary along the way. As circumstances change during the year, so will the paths we must take. Every dream or goal is altered along life's scenic routes.

Expecting scenic routes is our hope after the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunamis. Millions were forced on a scenic route the day after Christmas as many perished and many more were left hurt, hungry and homeless.

To think this is God's will is ignorant and illogical. But we see God's will through the outpouring of sympathy and support shown throughout the world. Rescue and relief will take a while, years probably, but if good will -- and God's will -- continues, not only can we make it through this scenic route, but our world could be transformed for the better as a result of it.

The prophet Isaiah offers the comfort of the divine: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you" (Isaiah 43:2). Scenic routes will always be part of our lives, but faith in God and one another will see us through.

The Rev. Charles Buck is conference minister of the Hawaii Conference, United Church of Christ.

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