Grandpa Larry’s Random Reminiscence: Westward Ho

I remember a trip my wife, Sue and I took quite a few summers ago, back when we were both young and footloose and fancy-free. We had traveled to Chicago to visit my grandmother and then decided to head out to Seattle to see one of my wife’s cousins. The trip to Chicago had been over familiar roads and we hadn’t purchased any maps, but before leaving Chicago, Sue suggested we get a road atlas. I pooh-poohed her idea because we had no time schedules and I was playing the great adventurer.

“We don’t need any maps,” I announced confidently, “Seattle is west and a little bit north. We can’t miss it.”

We were very much in love and my wife had great trust and confidence in me, so off we went. We drove west for a while and then turned north; and whenever we encountered an interesting road, we turned westward or northward as it pleased us. We camped along the way and were in no hurry; life was blissful. And then an unexpected thing happened. We came to the Mississippi River and there was no bridge.

“It’s Okay,” I assured Sue. “We can just turn north until we come to a bridge.” We turned northward onto a highway which paralleled the river and followed it for ten or twenty miles.  Gradually, it curved and turned eastward. “Oh, well,” I yawned, “we’ll just go east until we run into another highway heading north.  And it should take us to another main artery going west.  And it ought to take us to a bridge over the river.” We followed that plan, but there wasn’t a bridge on that road either.

So we headed northward again until the road ended and we had to go back and take another road eastward. And this time we had to go nearly forty miles before we found another road going north. I was getting frustrated and my wife was grinning silently behind her magazine. “I think I’ll buy a map,” I conceded. “There’s got to be a bridge around here somewhere.”

When I stopped and purchased a map, I discovered a bridge nearby that we would never have found without the map. We just needed to get on the right road and follow it to the bridge to continue our journey to Seattle. We took the time to chart the rest of the journey then, too, and set out again, our minds at rest.

On another day, almost ten years later, a man came into my office to talk to me about the Christian life. He was a young alcoholic and had just finished a five day program at a local rehabilitation center for alcoholism, and now he wanted to enlarge his concept of God. He had been directed to surrender his life to a higher power but he was seeking definition. I told him the story.

“Seeking the higher power, whatever you consider it to be,” I suggested, “is like driving to Seattle without a road map. You know it’s there and you know, in general, which way to go. But there are some obstacles along the way that are pretty tough.” I lifted my Bible. “Here’s the road map to life,” I told him. “And Jesus is the way.

“You know, after we purchased the map and got across the river, we really had a beautiful journey. But it wasn’t trouble free. As a matter of fact we broke down in the plains of South Dakota. But we were at peace because we could take out our map and pinpoint our location.  And even though we were fifty miles from the nearest town and the car wouldn’t run, we knew right where we were and which way to go to get help.”

And life is like that. Knowing Jesus, and having the Bible as your guide brings peace and a certainty to life that will carry you through the longest nights, through the most challenging trials, and down the roughest roads.

– Larry Berger. HashtagWV #120. December 2019

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