This is all well and good if you're driving a car. But what if you're just trying to live a life?
We made this Labor Day trip in 1981, the year of our third son's birth. Had we made the trip only a few years later, we'd have had four boys and a daughter all strapped into or onto something.
My understanding of cars -- especially in the late '80s when we made that trip -- is that they run on gasoline and oil and that you also need to keep plenty of air in the tires and water in the radiator. I had no idea that carburetors needed to be adjusted for altitude, nor would I have known how, so when our stressed-out little brown barely-there care started gasping for air and straining its way up the mountainsides, I just pushed the pedal harder to the medal and tried to keep my eyes off the Land Rovers lining up in the rear view mirror. I looked and felt like a prairie geek.
We took a walk across the sky on the Royal Gorge Bridge, dipped our toes and kids in clear running springs, listened to John Denver cassette tapes until we could stand it no more and stretched the patience of the our oldest son, the only one who could talk, but could get no answers to the "are we there yet?" question because I was never sure where we were. I only knew that if I took my eyes off the road for one second we would be airborne.
And that lead us to Ouray, the Switzerland of America, a quaint little town in a river valley in the heart of the
On the edge of Ouray, our car gasping, we pulled into a little roadside gas station, just as the sign flickered out and the inside lights went dark. "No," I said aloud, waking the boys. "This can't be." As we coasted in, a tall shadowy figured emerged at the gas station door in the thickening darkness, securing the lock. Dressed in a long black cape, she glanced towards us, paused and waited.
"Hmmmm . . . . " I wondered. Coast on in or coax a little more from the gas vapors? Every scary movie from my childhood came to mind as all the color of the day faded to black-and-white . . . and long capes and fingernails . . . and noses.
She raised her hand and beckoned us to the pumps and met us there.
"Such a beautiful family," she said, peeking into the back at the wide-eyed boys whose lips were pulled back into grimaces of half-smiles as they looked back and forth at each other.
When I told her we were just gassing up and heading on to Silverton, she paused and smiled and said . . .
"You'll never make it in the dark with this fog. There's too many curves in the mountain roads. You'll plunge right over the edge."
I asked about a local hotel, but she said all the college students were down from Montrose and everything was booked.
"My name is Smiles," she said. "And I guess you all better just come home with me." I protested a bit, but she just waved a long finger at me, pointed at the boys in the back and told me I really didn't have a choice. And with that, she pulled the hood up on her black cape and we followed her into the foggy night. My Twilight Zone-based understanding of dark nights and strange places assured me we were doomed.
We went on our way, survived our vacation, changing diapers at every roadside attraction, and the car recovered from its asthma about the time we crossed back into
How many times in my life have I not paused when someone told me I should not go on down the path, along the course I had set out for myself? How many times have I pushed onward through the closing dark and the rolling fog? How many times did I come so close to the edge on the curve before finally plunging through that guardrail, taking my family along on the free fall to the rocks below?
I read a newspaper story about a car filled with young people that crashed through a guardrail in
How many times have I not known where I was going, but insisted I drive on, figuratively, certain I could handle everything just fine . . . until I, of course, discovered I could not?
God's plan for us -- His path -- is not always clear. There is fog and sometimes darkness clouds the vision. But, there are also "Smiles," or people like her who step out of the fog and extend a hand and try to keep us from steering into a detour when we should probably just wait for the fog to lift.
Some of us are driving like mad, headed for a free-fall. Some of us are leaving the lights on just a little longer in hopes the others of us will pull off the road and rest and think and search for direction.
It doesn't really matter if the roads are curved and steep, or monotonous and stretched out long into the horizon, there are going to be forks in them. God knows which way we should go if we trust Him.