Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Seeking Jesus On The Highways Of Life

Published July 20, 2006

I surely deserve the world’s record for getting lost. I have been lost on the beltway around Washington, D.C., and on I-285, more than once.

I have merrily gone east when I needed to go west, and south instead of north. I have actually circled major cities going in the wrong direction.

Often, I end up where I started.

Some folks hear the voice of God when they’re lost on the roads. But I hear my first driving instructor, Buzz.

“Loosen up,” he murmured, prying my hands from the wheel, during that fateful summer when I was 27 and determined to drive.

In the confusion, my father’s voice also emerges: “Just stay calm. You’re doing fine.”

I have lost my way in life numerous times. In childhood, my parents pointed me toward a sound, rational, ordinary life.

You went to school, did your homework and got gold stars on your report cards. You headed to church on Sunday, said the rosary and went to confession as needed.

In college, I found their maps too humdrum and predictable.

All my friends were taking the exits marked “hippie” and “atheist,” and I followed them.

The hippie path, I discovered, was paved with shattered hearts from empty relationships. The atheist detour led me exactly nowhere.

Much later, I realized the truth: Someone else was in the car with me. And all the detours, however annoying they were at the time, were part of some bigger scheme.

There really was a map, even if I couldn’t read it.

People gently had been trying to give me directions. Out of the blue one day, my boss mentioned that she looked forward to Sundays, so she could worship God.

That hit a lost soul hard. Sundays were times to sleep late and read the newspaper. Were people really getting together to worship God?

I tucked that piece of information away, like a hungry person notes a recipe. Eventually, I made an effort to try a few churches.

When I came back to Catholicism, I didn’t accept the Church’s stance on abortion, contraception and other big issues. I guess you could say I wanted to get on the highway without paying the tolls.

I was fortunate that a priest welcomed me back, even if I was lukewarm about many Church teachings. Some might say he was wrong to do that, but I think he showed wisdom.

The priest trusted that God knew what He was doing.

As Flannery O’Connor said, “I think most people come to the Church by means the Church does not allow, else there would be no need their getting to her at all. … The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner, which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”

I was definitely the sinner, who was grateful to return to the nest I had left. Conversion, for many of us, is a long process, and it may take us years to fully understand Church teachings.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and I am assuming He knew about lost souls, who often seek him on unpaved, unmarked roads, rather than the standard highways.

In “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” Carrie Underwood sings about running low on faith and gasoline, and a near-miss accident while driving on a dark road.

“Jesus, take the wheel,” she sings, “Take it from my hands. ‘Cause I can’t do this all on my own.”

I’m grateful that He took the wheel from me. Here I am, on that old familiar road again, going to Mass on Sundays, receiving Communion and, finally, embracing the Catholic faith fully.

The poet T.S. Eliot said life is a journey and sometimes we end up right back at square one and “know the place for the first time.”

Early in the journey, a child kneels by the bed and asks the Father to take her safely through the night. She trusts He will nudge her in the right direction each day.

If that child gets lost in a store, she feels great distress, until the mother finds her and dries her tears.

The child is rescued by the mother’s love.

It’s really that simple. And I remind myself of this as I’m bumbling along the roads of life, sometimes going miles out of my way and thinking that I’m alone in the car.

The devil still puts up confusing road signs and frightening detours. He would love to see me lose my way again.

“Jesus, take the wheel,” I pray. “Only your love can save me.”

And I hear the voice: “Stay calm. You’re doing fine.”


Lorraine V. Murray works in the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University. You may e-mail her at Her books are available at local bookstores and at