Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to preach about twenty-two miles away from here at South Haven, Kansas. I’d made contact with the United Methodist Church there through the guy who leads Cowley College’s maintenance department. It seemed like a pretty simple arrangement: show up at nine o’clock, preach, go home. Pretty simple.
So, early Sunday morning, I checked MapQuest for directions. That seemed prudent, considering I’d never been to South Haven, Kansas, before. The directions seemed about as simple as my plan for the morning. Take Route 166 west from Ark City, turn south on Highway 177, then take a slight right in South Haven to Main Street, go to 314 and be there.
So, I took Route 166 west from Ark City, turned south on Highway 177, then began looking for that slight right in South Haven to Main Street.
There was no slight right to be taken in South Haven, though I looked rather intently for it. Just before leaving town on the south side, I took a hard right onto a gravel street. Seeing its ending pretty clearly from two blocks away, I took another hard right, searching for Main Street. Then I took another hard right and headed back toward 177. I crossed 177, found the Baptist Church and turned again. I saw the school and took another turn. Back to 177. Still no sign of Main Street or more specifically, no sign that said “Main Street.”
It is my deliberate habit, especially when preaching at a new place, to show up at least fifteen minutes early. That time had already passed. By the time I reached the Oklahoma line, I knew that my time gap was closing faster than a post office on Friday afternoon. I gave Todd a call and he had me turn around and head back north on 177. It was 8:59:45 when I walked into the building.
Turns out, 177 is Main Street. I’d passed right by the South Haven United Methodist Church within ten seconds of first entering South Haven, Kansas. I’d been looking intently for that non-existent slight right and hadn’t seen the distinctive brick building with its distinctive brick sign sitting right by the highway… on the left.
It’s good to start off a new relationship with a little dose of humility and Lord knows most preachers could use a tad more humility. It’s also good to not become so focused on what we think we’re looking for that we forget the possibility that what we’re looking for might be pretty obvious if we could get over ourselves and our pre-formed expectations. Even when we believe we have good reason for those expectations.
Oddly enough, sometimes getting to the right place is more important than being right about how to get there. But it sure is easier if you actually do know how to get there. I think next time, I’ll be about fifteen minutes early…