A Bump in the Road

Abilene’s roads aren’t the smoothest. In fact, the roads in North Abilene where I live are just plain bumpy. We have been a one-car family for the last year and a half, and because my routine and schedule are more flexible, I am the family’s driver, which means I spend a good bit of my days on Abilene’s bumpy roads. Our one car is a 2000 Honda Odyssey minivan with close to 250, 000 miles on it. It has had just about everything repaired on it at one time or another, except for the things which have recently broken or quit working, but have yet to be repaired. In addition to finding the extra dollars to patch up the van, finding just the right time in the week’s schedule to take it in to the shop can be tricky. At any rate, it has had enough bumps and bruises that it does not handle well the plethora of potholes on my daily dashes about town; particularly the mad dashes. I don’t like bumps in the road. They slow me down and make me grouchy and irritable. It has been cold in Abilene this past week, as winter has burst back on the scene in what we hope is its final curtain call. The older I get, the less I like winter. I just don’t like being cold.

It makes me grouchy and irritable, too.

And so, unexpectedly, this arctic blast has had me looking for bumps in the road. You see, one of the not-yet-repaired Odyssey functions is the fan on the van’s air conditioning and heating system. It hasn’t totally quit working. It is just sporadic. It might come on when you get in or it might not. It seems most reliable on the most temperate of days, but likely I just notice it more when there is frost on the windshield and the tattered leather seats are freezing my backside, and there is no warming up the car. But occasionally on one of those mad dashes, when I have forgotten the limitations of my transportation and hit a bump, the fan has suddenly been jarred on and my grousing about the bump has been interrupted by the gift of warm air. So when Old Man Winter came to call this week, I found myself looking for a bump in the road.

I remember a couple of years ago, driving a church van for a Wednesday night children’s outreach program. My route took me on Maple Street, which at that time had one of the biggest potholes in town. It was the kind of bump that sent the back row airborne if you hit it just right and forgot to slow down. It was the highlight of the trip for the kids, who without fail would squeal with delight and beg to take our Maple Street crew home first every week. I would prefer to avoid the bump and not be slowed down or jostled uncomfortably. I remember thinking then that I would someday write about the joy those children found because of a bump in the road, and my inability to share it with them.

I have always struggled with the idea of “counting it all joy,” as the New Testament writer James exhorts us, “when we face trials of many kinds.” I have been fortunate not to encounter many true trials in this life. I have been spoiled. My bumps in the road haven’t been of the Maple Street magnitude, but I have in the last few years had the honor of watching several friends travel that road.

Friends with great faith who have become widows unexpectedly and too young.

Friends who have lost children.

Friends battling cancer.

Friends who have shown me not only how to navigate a rugged terrain, but to do so with grace and eventually, yes, even with joy.

I am thankful for the example of my faithful friends, for the memory of children squealing with joy while flying over Maple Street, and for the warming surprise of North Abilene’s potholes. I don’t think I will be looking too hard for life’s bumps in the road, but I hope I will be looking at them differently if they come. And instead of being grouchy and irritable, learn to count it all joy.