Roads Unseen

First, the oil painting, then the story behind it… make sure you don’t miss the update below.

Watch me paint “Road Unseen” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)

“This was my view while driving the van with my three kids in it. They were young at the time. I was on my way home, on a country road in rural Minnesota, where we once had a hobby farm. I didn’t hear a voice, like some people say that they do. It was more like very strong intuition, but was ‘like’ a voice because the thoughts felt like God talking to me. Saying something like, “Slow down- it’s just over the hill. You are needed.”
I couldn’t see what was over the hill- that part of the road was unseen to me at the time. If I hadn’t slowed down when ‘asked’, I would have passed right by the car alongside the road, probably without noticing the woman standing beside it, who was looking distressed. It wasn’t a car accident, just a breakdown, but something felt very wrong. I stopped, put my window down and asked if she was OK. She was an older woman, who looked me over, and noticed my young kids- apparently she realized I was just a mom, and no threat to her. I saw she was a person in trouble, and my gut said she was not a threat either, but a person in need. Mayo clinic was about 45 minutes’ drive from where we were, and many clinics that offered specialized medicine were much closer, about 15 miles away. She was headed for an appointment at such a clinic, and she was agitated about missing it. Neither of us had a cell phone and she wanted to ring her daughter. So I offered her a ride back to my house to call her. Her daughter came to get her, but I didn’t see her- she was in a hurry to get to her doctor appointment or she’d have to reschedule, which would probably not be easy/fast to do. I thought of that woman the whole day, and wished I’d gotten her contact info. I worried about her getting to her appointment and I hoped she made it. She was a total stranger though, and had only been passing through via the rural stretch from town to town/city. The odds of ever seeing her again were near nothing. Or… Divine intervention…. serendipity… fate…. Just a few hours later, my family decided to go to dinner in the next town over (NOT the town where the woman had gone to her appointment, but in the opposite direction). We ate out seldomly, yet we went out on that particular day… I walked in and couldn’t believe it! The woman I’d found by the side of the road was sitting right there! I did a double take, thinking that maybe I’d imagined this recognition, and she was someone else, but no…. she too was doing an astonished double take. It really was her! She then told her family, “See… she’s not dangerous”. Her family had given her grief about riding with a stranger back to her house, and my family had given me grief about picking up a stranger with my kids in the car, and taking her back to my house. But, both families were instantly reassured…and I found out that she made it to her appointment! She was very relieved about that. It was for medical tests and I didn’t pry. I felt my role in this was over. I was only meant to help her get where she needed to go. Sometimes our ‘road unseen’ is a very small part to play, but important. Sometimes taking a leap of faith is necessary when the symbolic/metaphorical road is ‘unseen’. When we feel strong intuition to make a certain decision, go somewhere, do something, call someone, say yes, or say no, reflecting on these times can remind us of synchronicity. When feeling disillusioned, we can remember what God’s done before and feel hope, certain of God’s personal invention in our lives.”

– from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith” by Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

Years later, my husband and I had moved to a new city in a different state. He was scheduled to have surgery and was anxious. I tried to be a reassuring force for him, but what he really needed was to see a familiar face. But that was impossible. We were living in one city, while the hospital was in another one, and we were new to the state in general. The odds of seeing anyone my husband knew were near nothing.

We checked in and went through all of the stations. Finally we were in the room where he would await surgery. It was time for me to leave him there alone. But before I left, the nurse assigned to him came in to introduce herself. 

Both my husband and his nurse laughed in astonishment. How could this be? She was one of his regular customers from work- located several cities away from the hospital, where it turned out she also lived. She was commuting for a while. The nurse told everyone on the floor about the bizarre coincidence, but I knew it was our “road unseen”.

When they wheeled my husband off to surgery, he was in animated conversation with the nurse, laughing with the staff, and completely distracted from his fears. The surgery went well, and his results were typical. One familiar face at the right place, at the right time, made all the difference.

Sometimes we’re strangers, sometimes we know each other, but if we’re open to being or receiving a traveler on roads unseen, we may be overwhelmed to realize how loved we are. Science and math cannot account for how the laws of probability are broken when we are afraid. When help serendipitously finds us against all odds, perhaps it is sent to us.