Many of my friends from back east and in the northern parts are still experiencing winter weather - snow flies, drifts build, and roads become hazards rather than passageways. I have a family member in Canada who drives plows - he stays VERY busy trying to keep a semblance of passable roadway for those who must venture out. To him, the work must seem endless, but it has a purpose - to make for a safe passage. If you have ever tried to travel a roadway covered with slick ice, drifts of snow, and sometimes unrecognizable "boundary markers", you might understand the dangers associated with this type of travel. When you cannot see the boundary markers of the roadway, it is easy to drift into spaces your car was not intended to travel!
The perverse travel a dangerous road, potholed and mud-slick; if you know what’s good for you, stay clear of it. (Proverbs 22:5 MSG)
I spend three years in Alaska as part of my tour in the military. I absolutely enjoyed the opportunities and experiences I had there, but one experience will always stick in my mind. You see, I was raised in the heat of the Arizona desert - snow was just not a thing I ever really learned to deal with. I did not realize the significance of the damage which can be done by the beautiful white stuff! As I ventured out my first weekend pass away from base, I was excited to be exploring the areas outside of my military post. The local bus service was my means of transportation - the first time I'd ridden public transportation, I might add. It was January - cold, snow every day, and dark most of the time. I wanted to make the best of the few hours of daylight we had, so I timed my venture just right. As I stepped off the bus at the bus stop, I was so excited to be exploring the local shops, eateries, and just plain enjoying a little R&R. Until I had to cross the street, that is!
You see, I really had no concept of what a pothole was until I moved to Alaska! As I stepped off the curb and began to make my way across the busy four lane roadway, I took a couple of steps and then sunk thigh high into this brown-black, cold mess! Yep, a pothole! Disguised as a "puddle" in the middle of the road! Who'd have known? There I was, wet, cold, snowy water seeping into my boots, and traffic was coming from everywhere. As you can well imagine, my heart skipped a couple of beats while I scurried as quickly as I could out of the mess, then skedaddled my way across the street to the safety of the sidewalk (or at least where I thought the sidewalk should be) as quickly as my feet could carry me. It was the start of a beautiful excursion, turned bitterly miserable with one tiny misstep - one tiny unrecognized hazard in my path!
You never know the dangers hidden just beneath the surface, do you? The pothole was "concealed" beneath what looked like nothing more than an inch of mushy snow blackened by the combined travels of many drivers and the sands of the snow plow crews. Yet, just beneath the "pretense" of a puddle was the "reality" of a cavernous expanse just waiting to engulf the unsuspecting! Life is filled with potholes, isn't it? Maybe not literal ones, but the "figurative" potholes of life lay in wait for us! They usually are directly in the path of where we are right now and where we want to be shortly. In fact, they are often unnoticed by us because we aren't looking for the obstacles in our passage, just the end of our journey!
It is the unrecognized obstacles which give us the most problems, isn't it? The stuff we see readily, we avoid like the plague! It is the subtle compromises we don't see which get us every time! The pothole on that Anchorage street did not start out as a cavernous "trap" just waiting for its next "victim". It started as a tiny fissure in the surface of the roadway - a tiny compromise (no biggie). As the snows fell, the ice formed, and the trucks worked that roadway, the tiny fissure grew bigger. Little pieces of protective roadway lifted, pulling away from the others, until the fissure became a large gap. Compromise has a way of pulling us away from the connections which lend integrity to our lives. The gap soon becomes an unprotected opening, allowing the "softness" of what is underneath to be exposed to the elements, eroding away piece by piece until the "hole" grows deep. The first compromise created the fissure - the repeated ones allowed for the disconnection - the continual passage afforded the erosion.
Before long, what appeared to be nothing more than a "no biggie" becomes a "big deal" for us! Potholes in our character don't just happen - they "develop" - because of frequent passage in the same direction, inattentiveness to the small breaks in integrity, and consistent outside influences acting against the strength and integrity of the protective barriers in our lives. Our scripture today reminds us focus on the path we travel, not just the destination we have in mind. If I had watched for the evidence of potholes, I'd have had a lot "dryer" of a day! If we observe for the small "breaks" in the integrity of our character, allowing God to repair those small fissures before they grow too big, we are less likely to travel a roadway riddled with potholes. Just sayin!