Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Life on a Rutted Dirt Road

 (Part III)

Frozen Ruts

 Some of the lessons learned on our rutted dirt road were only ‘surface’ lessons; lessons that anyone might be expected to learn just by the fact that they lived our lifestyle.  Other lessons were deeper and held much greater value; lessons about who God is and how He loves me.

 The ruts in the road were almost always present to some degree.  It was a very rare occasion when there was no semblance of rutting noticeable.  That seems to be true about my life as well.  Life experiences happen and they often leave ruts, or scars, to one degree or another.

 In my own life, some of the scars weren’t spoken of for many years after they were etched into the surface of my heart.  Hard as I might try, I could not erase the scars some experiences left on my heart.  Just as that grader made innumerable trips up and down our road trying desperately to fill in the ruts or grade down the walls, I tried filling my ‘ruts’ with lots of things.  When that didn’t work, I would switch tactics and try to knock down the ‘walls’ I had erected in order to protect myself.

 The most difficult of my own ruts to deal with was sexual abuse by a friend’s father when I was 13.  It lasted for an afternoon, evening and throughout the night.  For reasons too numerous to name here, I never told Momma and Daddy and did not tell my sisters until after my husband had died.  When my husband and I were dating, I told him.  Until he died, he and I were the only people on this earth who knew.  The man who assaulted me died about 4-5 years after my husband and I were married, and his wife died a couple of years later.

At that point, thirteen year old girls were much more innocent than today.  I buried the pain deep within the recesses of my heart and vowed never to tell anyone.  The pain became like a cancer growing deep within me.  It began to take root and spread into every aspect of my life.  I had become a Christian at the age of 11.  After the abuse, I was angry with God and no longer trusted Him.  In my eyes, God had let me down.  He had failed to protect me when no one else could.

 I felt ashamed and guilty.  I began to believe all the horrific things my abuser had said about me.  I believed the abuse was somehow my fault.  When you are a child and something horrible happens to you, you find a way to make it your fault.  It is even easier to do so when the lie is perpetrated by the individual who harms you.

 My rut grew deeper with every passing day.  The surfaces were more slippery and the danger of sliding into other ruts that intersected my own deep rut became more and more likely.  The walls grew higher and higher and icy crags developed in the recesses of my heart.  Coldness and hardness now occupied the place once so soft and pliable to the Spirit of the Lord.

I began to see myself as tainted and used; unfit for any good Christian man to ever desire for a wife and the mother of his children.  I also began to notice I had a certain power over boys, a power to get what I wanted from them.  I saw myself as a ‘bad girl’, the type girl only good for one purpose to men.  I was headed long and hard into a promiscuous lifestyle that would bring further shame to me and to my parents; but more than that, it would bring shame to my Lord.

BUT GOD......God had a different plan.  I had given up on God.  I had no use for Him.  I was disappointed in Him.  Where was He when I needed Him most?  He most certainly was nowhere that I could see and He had done me no good whatsoever.  Suddenly, when I was sure He had forsaken me forever, the ‘rut’ took on a new and strangely positive role in my life.

On a Saturday afternoon, God placed a gift in my world that changed me forever, for the good.  Strangely enough, that gift wasn’t even a Christian.  He was a long-haired, tobacco smoking, rock-and-roll listening, muscle car driving lost young man who showed me God in a way I had never seen Him before.  He gave me unconditional love and valued me more than I valued myself.  He treated me with respect, as though I were a person of intrinsic value.

Healing had begun and I had no idea I needed, or wanted, healing.  A tangle of ruts in my road were about to begin their repair; a process that would last years into my future.  I would see old ruts repaired while new ruts developed.  Slipping and sliding and dodging the ditches of sin became a journey that taught me who God really is and how He really loves me. 

I started to see God and the experiences of my life through the eyes of someone whose only desire was to protect me.  His thoughts and deeds always put me first.  He never allowed me to believe the lies Satan tried to tell me about myself.  He fought vigorously for my right to walk in love without the burdens of shame and guilt.

He made me believe in myself again and helped me to open my heart to God again.  Now, I know how wrong that sounds considering the fact that he was not a Christian.  He is where I began to understand that God uses circumstances and people in ways we can only imagine in order to accomplish His will in our lives.

I think most Christians have God in their own little ‘God box’ and we expect Him to work only ways we approve of.  When we allow God to get out of that box, I think we are all in awe of His great love for us.  I was at a point in my life where there was so much anger toward God.  It would take me years to make what seemed almost a sacrilegious statement…..I found myself needing to forgive God.

Think about that until I make my next post.  Don’t be glib about it, but really take it to your heart and think about it.  It is, perhaps, one of the greatest lessons this experience taught me about God, His love for me and how He often surprises me in the ways and means He uses to accomplish His plan.
I will bless you with a future filled with hope,
a future of success, not of suffering. 
You will turn back to me and ask for help,
and I will answer your prayers.

Jeremiah 29:11-12  (CEV)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life on a Rutted Dirt Road
(Part II)

This is not the rutted dirt road I grew up on, but it is very similar.
The greatest difference would be that my road was much
more curvy, with hills and hollows and lots of trees.

So, the rutted dirt road presented obstacles to us every day; obstacles that were sometimes much worse than at others.  On some days, the obstacles were mere annoyances.  The ruts were minor and the hazard was minimal.  On other days, the obstacles presented real hazards to our safety.  The mud or frozen surface was slick and keeping the old pick-up between the ditches required finesse from Daddy’s very skillful hands.
We rode that road in all seasons of our life.  We were in our work clothing and bouncing around in the back of that old pick-up.  We were in our school clothes and riding the school bus as it jumped and jagged about the surface or in the cab of the pick-up as we drove to the grocery.  We were in our ‘Sunday’ clothes and trying desperately to stay clean and pressed as we drove to church on a Sunday morning.

The pick-up had no air conditioning, so it was hot in the summer and our hair was always, always windblown!  I can remember very few times when the windows weren’t down and the wind cascading through our tresses. In the winter, it seemed to me that the heater wasn’t working well and we were freezing cold or it was working too well and we were sweating.  Never satisfied, Momma would say!

When I think of the lessons I learned on that rutted dirt road, it often brings tears to my eyes.  From my earliest childhood, I remember knowing that Momma and Daddy loved us.  I don’t know that I ever questioned that fact.  I didn’t like some of their decisions and that certainly got worse as I grew older, but I don’t remember questioning the fact that they loved us.
Our paternal grandparents lived just down the road.  Daddy was given land on which to build our home from Paw’s farm.  Paw and Maw McDonald doted on us!  A great Saturday was when we were allowed to go to the grocery with Paw and Maw because we knew we were coming home with just about whatever we asked for!

Not only were we loved, but we were disciplined and taught self-respect and respect for others.  Meals were eaten at the table. Momma cooked the food, put it on the table and we ate.  We were not allowed to complain or leave the table before we had eaten our meal.
Chores were split and assigned from my earliest remembrance. We tried to complain but Momma and Daddy weren’t ones for hearing complaints. It was hushed in quick order, sometimes causing a lot of tears and attempts at extended ‘snubbing’.  Daddy, however, didn’t like ‘snubbing’ and would put an end to that in short order; usually by announcing that, unless the ‘snubbing’ stopped, he would give us something to ‘snub’ about!  I must admit that I failed to listen to that advice on an occasion or two; it didn’t take long to learn better!

The rutted dirt road was our connection to our neighbors and to any other necessity of life not provided on the farm.  Some of my fondest memories are of getting into our play clothes, jumping into the back of the pick-up and heading out to my maternal grandparent’s home for a family gathering.

Momma was one of nine children and there were lots of cousins.  We would run and play until any normal individual would have been completely exhausted, but we never seemed to be too tired to run some more.  The women cooked, the children played and the men…..well, I’m not really sure what the men did, to tell the truth!
When the food was ready, the men were seated and ate first.  Then, the children were fed.  Lastly, the women would finally sit down to eat and visit after everyone else had been waited on.  Some say that’s some sort of ‘diss’ on the women; much to the contrary!  It was exactly what the women wanted.  The men were fed, the kids were fed and the women could now sit down and eat and visit without interruption from the kids….big or small!

We cared about our neighbors along that rutted dirt road and they cared about us.  A tornado hit our house in the pre-dawn hours one summer morning, removing one side of our roof, taking our front porch and damaging other areas of the house and other farm buildings.  Within an hour, men from neighboring farms were gathered in our lawn and on our rooftop assessing the situation and determining what would be needed to make the repairs.  Once the materials were figured, they were off to the local hardware store to make the purchases and replace the roof.  By day’s end, the roof was replaced, the porch was floored and roofed and the trash was hauled away.
Ladies came with food and the men were fed around noon.  By supper time, the work was done and everyone began the departure.  No one talked about money or who would pay; it was understood that everyone did what they could to help us and the repairs were made with no debt left behind.

So, life on that rutted dirt road wasn’t bad at all.  It afforded opportunities to know myself better, to know my family better and to know and appreciate the blessings of good neighbors and the idea of ‘doing unto others’ living before my eyes.  The Golden Rule wasn’t a theory to us, it was how we lived. 
I’m not through with this subject, so come back again….I rarely run out of something to say!

“Treat others just as you want to be treated.”

                                               Luke 6:31  (CEV)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Life on a Rutted Dirt Road
(Part 1)

For several weeks, the Holy Spirit has been working in my heart to write a post about living on a rutted dirt road.  It has come and gone and no real ‘firming’ has happened.
Then, I met my friends in Michigan for an extended weekend retreat in the north woods of the upper mitten.  We made the drive from Detroit to Grayling in high anticipation.  The trip was exciting because we knew from experience what a great joy awaited us.

Our rutted dirt road in Michigan
Photo by Pat Trent
This was after an overnight 'drying time'.

As we drove, the final turn was made onto the road that led to the lodge.  I swear, it looked more like a logging road than a road meant for public transportation!  As we turned, the road stretched out before us.  A gravel road sunken into the wet, muddy road bed with definite ruts already created by other traffic and deepened by those cars ahead of us in our little caravan.

As the ladies drove, the ruts were at times so deep the thoughts of getting stuck in the mud was definitely in the forefront of our thoughts.  Moving to the right or left of the ruts left us with very slick surfaces to traverse.
I well remember rutted dirt roads from my childhood.  The rains of spring always left the road muddy and ruts were a fact of life.  Drying during the hot days of summer meant trips up and down the road by the county highway department with their graders. 

The ruts would be filled and the road bed smoothed as well as could be done.  The rains of fall again left us with ruts and the freezes of winter only served to make the ruts worse.  We were always thankful when hard freezes came.  Although they left the road slippery, at least it wasn’t muddy and rutted so deeply traveling was hazardous.
Living on that road meant a year long struggle with the elements and the condition of the road.  It was either wet, slippery and rutted, frozen and slick with ice or so dusty breathing was difficult when traveling with our windows open or in the back of the pick-up truck.

The path seemed never to be really smooth and free of some sort of obstacle to overcome.  Muddy with ruts, frozen and slippery or dry and dusty was the constant conditions we faced.

Life on that road was none-the-less very peaceful and I never remember being afraid of walking on that road or of riding my bike for miles up and down that road.  Safety or the lack thereof, was never an issue.  We knew the people on our road; they were our neighbors and would never allow us to be in danger.  The road was rugged, but the people were our safety net.
In my next post, I will continue this idea in a very different manner and with some comparisons that might challenge your way of thinking about God and who He is.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?!
My brothers and sisters,
you will face all kinds of trouble.
When you do, think of it as pure joy.
Your faith will be put to the test.
You know that when that happens
it will produce in you
the strength to continue.
The strength to keep going
must be allowed to finish its work.
Then you will be all you should be.
You will have everything you need.
 James 1:2-4