“I come back with increased conviction to those places where I was born, or played as a boy, narrowing my circles like a bird going back to a nest. That seems to me the end of all travel, and especially the wildest travel, to get home.” (G.K. Chesterton) Dusk came early one evening years ago and caught two young girls by surprise. Mom and Aunt Hilda had been at a neighbor’s house almost a mile down the road playing with their friends when they remembered they still had to walk home. They knew the road well, but now it was getting dark and since they had no flashlight, their only hope was to rely on their memory and the scarce light offered up by the moon. Adding to the danger, the neighbors had sent with them a generous bag of meat to give their mom. They set off into the night carrying the ‘unintentional bear bait’ between them. It wasn’t long before fear gripped them as they thought some kind of wild animal was actually chewing at the bag. They didn’t dare look back in fear of what they might see. Both girls were terrified, but they just kept walking.
I don’t know if I could have refrained from looking back. Could you? It got me thinking about notable people who looked back and it made all the difference. Ok, so it didn’t turn out well for Lot’s wife, but I recall a different outcome in a book called Follow The River about Mary Ingles. The pioneer woman was taken captive by the Shawnee and often looked back over her shoulder, trying to burn into her memory certain rock formations along the Ohio, Kanawha, New, and Scioto Rivers that would guide her back home once she made her escape. I wondered if I could do it….
Looking back over Gospel scripture and prayer journals reminds us what our loving God has already done. We’ve often moved way beyond an answered prayer, so it’s good to be reminded. Maybe we need to set up a stone of remembrance. The scriptures call them an Ebenezer-- a stone erected as in 1 Samuel 4, to remind generations “The Lord has helped us to this point.” Every familiar boulder little Rose Ann and Hilda passed along their darkened journey was an Ebenezer assuring them God had brought them safely thus far and they were that much closer home.
I love country roads that take me home, but even in daylight the winding, narrow way with steep drop-offs can be treacherous. Pap told how when the first vehicles came to the area they were really noisy and you could hear them coming long before they arrived, and the inexperienced drivers weaved from one side of the road to the other, causing anyone with a lick of sense to jump over the road bank. When Paula (my best friend, cousin, and neighbor) and I had a playdate, we would cautiously walk together halfway between our houses, and then shout around the curves when we arrived safely back at the top of our respective driveways. I also know some folks who moved into the area not long ago who just couldn’t get comfortable with our hair-pin turns and the wife would hop out of their car and run around the bend to make sure nothing was coming.
Looking ahead or looking back here are three things I’ve learned. Sometimes the road to get “home” is a wild travel like Chesterton said. It’s good to have someone to walk with. And we need reminded God has brought us this far so we can trust Him with what’s around the bend. This May I’m especially thankful for Mom, Aunt Hilda, and mothers everywhere who teach us to not lose hold of what’s precious (Jesus), and just keep going!… even if wild animals are chewing at our bag of meat.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel