A hard rain was falling that afternoon, and I was eager to get home. After a long day of doctor appointments in the city for my son Ben, I loaded up the car with groceries and headed up the twisting road to our home in the mountains. Only a few miles up, however, a large yellow County Roads Department truck suddenly pulled out in front of me, making me hit the brakes in frustration. I stewed and fumed as the big truck ground upwards at 20 mph instead of my usual 45.
Living in the mountains, you get a feel for the roads. Each curve is familiar, and navigating the twists and turns becomes second nature. We locals are able to zip up and down the roads at speeds that would frighten a flatlander. Living in a beautiful place, though, also invites many others who are unfamiliar with our roads: Campers, trucks, and tourists fearful of plunging through the guard rail and over the side. It is a regular frustration to find yourself stuck behind one or more people creeping slowly up the road and refusing to use the offered turnouts. So it was a common annoyance to find myself once again trailing a vehicle laboring slowly around the turns, only this day my patience was worn thin, and my anger grew hotter than usual. Why did he have to pull out in front of me? Couldn’t he see that I was able to go faster than him?
We crept around another curve, the maddening truck slowing down even more as we inched ahead, and suddenly I saw it – a large rock, cut loose by the rain, lying in the road just out of sight around the bend. The truck lowered his plow blade and pushed it out of our lane and off to the side, then pulled over and signaled me to pass.
Instantly I was filled with remorse. The big yellow truck was there to rescue me, not hinder me. If I had come around the corner and hit that rock, it would have been disastrous. I was shaken to my core by what could have happened, but didn’t. It is a lesson seared into my soul.
We recently took a trip to the U.K., where many of the roads are hemmed in by tall hedges. It was frustrating for us to drive through what we suspected was scenic countryside, only to be fenced in on either side for miles on end.
But when the hedges ended and we were able to catch a glimpse of the scenery, how much more beautiful it seemed! In every case, the hedged roads led us to fascinating sights.
Perhaps we would not have appreciated the beauty as much if it had been slipping by our windows all along.
And I wonder, what circumstances am I chafing under now? What yellow truck am I following, waiting for freedom to come and overlooking the purpose and opportunities right in front of me? We have all come through a long few years of Covid restrictions. How many of us fought and fussed and complained over the hedgerows of our circumstances instead of using them for God’s glory? Did we suffer honorably, or petulantly? With resentment or with determination?
I think of the apostle Paul, sitting frustrated in a prison cell. And yet he used those hard circumstances to write a large portion of the New Testament. He accepted his lot to the extent that he wrote a whole book on joy. And his captors, witnessing his life and hearing his words, believed in the Savior he spoke about. They would never have had a chance to hear about Jesus had Paul not been confined to that jail cell.
We are a people who don’t like to be hemmed in, held back, inconvenienced. Yet how many times are those the very things that carve beauty in our souls? How many opportunities would we pass by in our haste if we hadn’t been slowed down and forced to consider our way?
I think of the other hedgerows in my life. One is sitting across from me now as I write, begging for Christmas and applesauce and cowboy boots. Ben’s disabilities have profoundly altered my life, limiting it in many ways. They have also opened doors to people and experiences I would have passed over otherwise; opened windows in my soul, my heart and my understanding to the endless creative wonder that is God. Ben is the big yellow truck, putting an abrupt halt to my dreams and assumptions in order to rescue me from an ordinary, unexamined life.
One day the hedgerows will come to an end, and we will run freely through the wide-open fields of heaven. And the people we will be there, are the people we are becoming now. So let’s not waste the hedgerows of these earthbound days, frittering our limited time away in angst and complaint. Hedgerows don’t just limit us – they also guide us. I believe that one day we will bless their presence in our lives.
Don’t tell Ben, but there are cowboy boots waiting under the Christmas tree for him this year. And his delight in opening them will be my delight as well, thanks to the blessing of the hedgerows.