Yesterday’s 55 mile trek from Platteville to Monroe got a bit longer when several of us turned onto a less-than-clearly-marked county road. We were on the correct road, just headed in the wrong direction. The good news is our supply and gear team discovered our error before we had gone too far off course (only about 7 miles). The other news is we had climbed a number of significant hills while facing into a strong headwind. By the time we all got back on to the correct route, we had lost about 90 minutes of progress. I’m guessing without the SAG drivers’ assistance, we would have not recognized our error until we pedaled into Mineral Point – which has an Episcopal Church, but would not have been expecting us for lunch!
Once we regrouped, we set out (on course this time!) from Darlington,WI. We spent the rest of the afternoon hurtling down the backside of one hill to get up enough speed to climb our way to the top of the next, before repeating the process again. There were brief stretches of relatively flat road – extremely brief! At 4:45 p.m., we were met by a trio of riders from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, who rode the final 5 miles with us to the church. When we arrived at St.Andrew’s (about 90 minutes behind our original schedule), we were greeted by cheers, clanging pans, wonderful sidewalk art, and the largest welcoming committee we’ve seen thus far on the Tour.
We feasted on goose, garden fresh vegetables, home-style pickles, roasted potatoes, fried green tomatoes and strawberry shortcake. We enjoyed delightful conversation and heard stories of the healing power of God made present in the midst of Christian community. We were also inspired by the witness this congregation gives to its community through many different sorts of outreach ministry – the sort of holy helping which characterizes Episcopalians at our best.
After I told the folks at St. Andrew’s about our wrong turn, I mentioned I would try to figure out some spiritual value in getting lost for today’s blog post. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do that, because one of our SAG drivers texted me the answer last night after dinner: “The spiritual value in taking a wrong turn is not in the getting lost, but in the finding you are in the wrong place and seeing the way to get back on course.” Agreed!
Sometimes, though, we can’t see where we are without the benefit of other sets of eyes. We often need other people to point us in a different direction, or at least to point out other options. At its best, this is what Christian community can be – a group of pilgrims, making our way together through this life, helping each other when we get off track, patiently waiting while we find our way back and then greeting us with open arms (and a Holy Feast!) when we finally arrive home.