Traversing The Potholes of Life

by Tom Wacaster

The core of this article was written a few years ago while on a mission trip in India.  Travel on the back roads of Andre Pradesh (the state in which we did most of our work) is quite a challenge.  I have learned over the years that everyday situations often contain great lessons about life, and even illustrations about spiritual truths.  I cannot remember when, or where I first came across Paul Harvey’s essay on “Dirt Roads.” It will serve as a good lead in to my comments on the “potholes” of life:

by Paul Harvey

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many Dirt Roads have been paved. There's not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency that wouldn't be remedied, if we just had more Dirt Roads, because Dirt Roads give character.  People that live at the end of Dirt Roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride. That it can jar you right down to your teeth sometimes, but it's worth it, if at the end is home...a loving spouse, happy kids and a dog.  We wouldn't have near the trouble with our educational system if our kids got their exercise walking a Dirt Road with other kids, from whom they learn how to get along. There was less crime in our streets before they were paved.  Criminals didn't walk two dusty miles to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by 5 barking dogs and a double barrel shotgun. And there were no drive by shootings. Our values were better when our roads were worse!  People did not worship their cars more than their kids, and motorists were more courteous, they didn't tailgate by riding the bumper or the guy in front would choke you with dust & bust your windshield with rocks. Dirt Roads taught patience.  Dirt Roads were environmentally friendly, you didn't hop in your car for a quart of milk you walked to the barn for your milk. For your mail, you walked to the mail box.  What if it rained and the Dirt Road got washed out? That was the best part, then you stayed home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody. At the end of Dirt Roads, you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap.  Most paved roads lead to trouble, Dirt Roads more likely lead to a fishing creek or a swimming hole. At the end of a Dirt Road, the only time we even locked our car was in August, because if we didn't some neighbor would fill it with too much zucchini.  At the end of a Dirt Road, there was always extra springtime income, from when city dudes would get stuck, you'd have to hitch up a team and pull them out. Usually you got a dollar...always you got a new the end of a Dirt Road!   ~ ~ (Paul Harvey; original source no known)

The roads in India are much like those “dirt roads” Paul Harvey spoke of.  We in America often take the condition of our roads for granted, and assume that most roads in the world are as good as, or perhaps even better than the worst of our bad roads.  I can assure you that even our country roads are far superior to some of the major highways in India.   This is not to say that there are no good roads in India whatsoever, for their government has been actively involved in improving road conditions nationally by building what we here at home might call "Interstate Highways."  In India they are known as "National Highways."   Between Kakinada in the state of Andre Pradesh and the nearest National Highway is a distance of about 50 kilometers (give or take a dozen kilometers).   Portions of the highways leading out of Kakinada have been resurfaced in the last couple of years; but there remain some sections where the potholes are large enough to swallow a "laurie" (i.e. 18 wheeler semi).   I usually ride in the back of Nehemiah's Toyota and when we hit some of the worst of the potholes I get quite a "bounce."   I often find myself thinking, "If it had not been for that Tata (Indian made economy car) falling into the pothole ahead of us, the jolt would have been much worse.   Our driver does his best to avoid the potholes, weaving here and there, and slamming on the brakes when a hole is so large that it is simply unavoidable.    Oh yes, traversing the potholes in India is quite a challenge; I'm just glad that I'm not the one doing the driving.

Every life has "potholes" that come along from time to time.   One minute you might find yourself cruising down life's highway, without a care in the world.  All of a sudden here comes a "pothole" that you simply cannot avoid.  You weave here and there, trying your best to avoid it; but to no avail.  Sometimes those "potholes" of life slap us in the face without so much as a simple warning.  Financial loss, betrayal by a close friend or brother in Christ, or even the unexpected and sudden death of a loved one are among these unexpected challenges of life.  All of these can devastate our lives and more often than not, they come upon us unawares.   Try as we may, we simply cannot avoid those things that are bigger than life itself, and that stare us in the face without any way to escape.  Some years back someone sent me the following quote from a well known denominational preacher.  While I do not recommend much of what he writes, I think you will appreciate his sentiments in this quote.  Here a few select remarks:

"Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.   The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.   We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness…Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life…No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.   And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:   If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others" (Rick Warren).   

If you want to be happy why not try Paul's inspired advice:  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:8-9).  You cannot control the circumstances that come along in life any more than you can fill or dodge the potholes in the roads upon which you travel.  How you react to those circumstances is what is important.  And with God's help, faith in His promises, and a determination to do His will, you can successfully traverse the potholes of life.