Where’s the Road!?

Every year for the past 5 years my son has attended a sleep-away camp in one of the local state park reserves. It is not officially part of the Ozark National Forest but once you leave the blacktop in Arkansas, it may as well be. When I was growing up and visiting my grandparents in the central part of the state, the highlight of our trip was always the moment when I puked over the back of the front seat, or on the side of the road. Wait for it….wait for it…NOW! (Those road-side days were few and far between but did garner me some measure of sympathy solely as the reward for adequate warning!) Just typing this makes me queasy remembering the up and down, twist and turn, hot open-window air, vinyl seat slimy with sweat, and that blue trash can my grandmother had strategically positioned for that dreaded moment. I digress…

The road to my son’s camp is on the order of those I remember as a child. Like I said, once you leave civilization, and it doesn’t take long, every road is what we call a pig-trail. Today as we drove along I had time to think about the past week and how it reminds me of the road we were on. Bear with me.

About a month ago my Father-in-Law fell and broke his hip. Badly. The 90 minute surgery turned into 9 ½ hours, which resulted in further complications. We are not there to help shoulder the responsibilities that have gone along with the extended and complicated rehab that he is still enduring: or to help make decisions about the “remodeling” that has to be done, or carry any of the burden of the emotional toll it has taken on the family. Last week it all came to an ugly head like a major zit-pop if you’ll pardon the disgusting simile. That’s the most appropriate way to describe the episode from what I’ve gathered third hand.

Also during last week a friend’s son arrived home from a mission trip in Puerto Rico where he had fallen seriously ill. It was a miracle that he got home, but he arrived much more ill than they had originally understood and went from the airport gate to the PICU at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. (That’s a shout out to the BEST pediatric hospital IN THE WORLD although I might be biased. That’s another story…) While he is well enough to go home today, his recovery will be long and challenging in ways they are only imagining at this point. But that image will be reality soon, and it will be more crippling than they imagine at this point. And there is my jumping off point.

Driving through the Ozark mountains (humor me the technicality) is exactly like what my husband’s family and my friends are enduring. There are unexpected twists and turns in the road, stomach wrenching sudden drops, and always, always the inability to see what’s ahead whether over the next hump or around the next curve. (My mother used to think it funny to suddenly shout, “Where’s the road!?” which usually earned her an early-vomit-episode thanks to the combination of bile and adrenaline. You’re never going to read my articles again, are you?)

Today I realized that although the road ahead was often hidden from view and always uncertain, the car in front of us (obviously not locals judging by the pace they were setting and the smoking breaks) was acting like God – imagine their surprise. Yes, they were headed to camp as well and since they were traveling the road ahead of us, they got everywhere we were going first. Imagine that. If that isn’t a statement of the obvious, I don’t know what is. But think about how obvious it is and yet how often we forget that about our Lord. He’s traveled this road and He’s already on the downhill side of that one we can’t see over. Heck, we can’t even see the road beneath us when we get to the top! It’s just a straight drop to the bottom. But wait…there’s that car and He got there safely, so there is hope for us! All we have to do is keep on following.

Now you all may be remembering another article I posted a while back that had a similar (identical?) message, but I thought in light of this week’s circumstances it was good to recall that we never know where we’re going! Tragedy and accidents happen. Jobs are lost. Health is suddenly compromised. In a minute, life is irrevocably changed. We live in a fallen world – we have not reached the Promised Land yet. The unexpected should be expected!  Twist. Turn. Bottom out. Puke! Then we get back on the road and keep following that lead car. He never said it would be easy. He never promised that the road would not go through the Ozark foothills. And He never expected that you wouldn’t lose your lunch as a result of the ride of sheer terror. He only asked that you follow. And keep following. We don’t quit following when the following gets hard, we quit when we get there.

So, I hope this has been a silly bit of kick-in-the-pants encouragement. God is ahead of you on whatever road you’re driving. If you think you’re on the freeway of life right now, don’t suddenly decide to take the scenic route. Soon enough you’ll have to turn off the black top, and then, welcome to the ride! Keep the Lord in front of you and… keep driving!