Have you ever hit a barrier you didn’t even see? Eyes wide open, watching where you’re going, and suddenly you’re stopped dead. You probably think I’m talking about an esoteric principle, with some hidden, deep meaning, but I’m not. Okay, to be honest, I may get to that later. For now, I mean a real, physical barrier. I remember the day I hit one of those. It wasn’t pretty; all blood and screams, but in this case, there was no one to blame but myself.
Way back in my carefree childhood, the long days of summer meant freedom. None of this “I’m bored, text me” garbage I read frequently from my young friends today. We filled the days to capacity with adventure and activity. Our only concern was to be sure that we got meals and were home in time for the curfew. Other than that, we were up before the parents, fishing, or biking, or wandering the neighborhood in search of friends to hobnob with. Biking was the favorite. No, not the twenty-one or twenty-eight speed road bikes of today, not even the three speed axles for us. We rode whatever we could get our hands on and we made them better (or so we thought). Did you know that cutting the front forks from a thrashed bike and sliding them onto the forks of a functioning one would give you a chopper? Okay, it was a poor kid’s chopper, but to us it was the ultimate in cool ( I think we actually said “neat”). Miles and miles a day, we rode those monstrosities, caring not a whit that we looked utterly foolish to most onlookers. Of course, being the youngest meant that I got the cast-off bikes, and on the day in question, I was riding a rusty old junker, which had not even the decency to have the extension forks added.
Now, where was I? Oh yes! The blood and screams. After a day in the sun, I was headed into the yard for the last time. It was approaching the time when I would be in trouble if I was late, so I cut between the trees in the side yard, instead of entering the property via the driveway. As I flew over the handlebars, head first, I had a brief moment of clarity before the pain hit me. That wire stretched between the two trees? I had placed it there just a day or two before. No particular reason, just had the time to fill and the wire was handy. In my brief moment of clarity, as I flew through the air, I thought, “You stupid idiot!” That was all the time I had, because suddenly my head hurt. Worse; I was bleeding profusely from my right thumb, where my hand had gotten caught between the wire and my handlebars. This obviously, was where the screaming came in, since that was what I was doing uncontrollably by that time. Of course, Mom was there quickly, with first aid and comfort, along with a few pointed questions about the source of the wire. The embarrassment of the injury being self-inflicted took all the enjoyment out of the bragging, which normally followed such an event. Even when the thumbnail fell off a day or two later, there was none of the standard “show and tell”, which would inevitably have followed that development; the injured party in this case hoping for as little notice as possible.
As I considered that long ago event, I was reminded of a more recent occurrence, now part of the local lore, regarding a highway which had fallen into disuse and the lady who laid claim to it. You will understand that I must issue a disclaimer regarding any concrete knowledge of the event, since I have not talked with any of the principals, but knowing the parties involved, it seems to me a likely scenario. It appears that the state had built a highway nearby, with a shorter and straighter route up the hill from the river than the old road, so the aged one was used only in very bad weather. Since the woman owned property on both sides of the old highway, she thought it might be nice to have title to that too, without the nuisance of strangers being able to drive up it. Discovering a law that pertained to abandoned roadways, she sought to have the highway declared as such, but failed because it was determined that the road was still in use. Her solution to that was to string a logging chain across the road about halfway up the part to which she was laying claim. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
Late one night as a storm came in, an old farmer decided to take the old road instead of the new, just to be sure he didn’t have any problems making it up the very steep incline the new road offered. In the dark, he didn’t see the chain which spanned the space ahead of him. Fortunately, he was moving slowly and the only damage was that the chain broke out his windshield at it brought his vehicle to a sudden stop. If some script writer in Hollywood had written the story, I’m sure it would have ended with decapitation and the roof of the car torn off completely. More blood and screams. Maybe it’s a good thing we just have the local storytellers to relate this one. I’m not absolutely sure, but it’s my guess that traffic stopped moving up that old highway within a very short time of that event.
Is the story true? I don’t know, but the truth it demonstrates is unassailable. Sometimes, as in my childhood experience, we put up barriers in our own way, but frequently, the barriers just appear, through no fault of our own. In such cases, if we can’t go through, we find alternative routes to get where we’re headed. I’m fairly sure that driving up to the chain and waiting for it to be removed would have accomplished nothing. Going onto the lady’s property to remove the chain would almost certainly have resulted in injury, since large dogs and shotguns always come into the local lore centering around property questions in that sector. You’ll have to remind me to talk about a canoe trip the Lovely Lady and I, along with a few friends, took along the river down that way once, many years ago. Sometimes the best route, when the immovable barriers crop up, is around. As we say, it doesn’t do any good to beat your head against a wall. The wall doesn’t feel it and the head’s function isn’t helped much either.
The simple truth is that we learn from hard lessons. I never again rode my bicycle between trees without being able to clearly see the path I was traveling. This, in spite of the fact that the wire came down the day after my accident. Folks learned to avoid that blocked off road. They still make the journey into town, just by another route. We adapt, we learn. Life is truly an adventure, with opportunities and disappointments. The beauty of this journey that our God has set before us is that both the opportunities and the disappointments move us closer to our goal, both helping to equip us to make the trip in grand style, enjoying the journey.
Keep your eyes peeled for the junk across the road, though. It seems likely that there may be more coming up…
“Failure is not fatal. Failure is our teacher, not our undertaker.”
(William Arthur Ward~American educator, writer, and pastor~1921-1994)