“Guard well our human chain. Watch well you keep it strong. As long as (the) sun will shine…” – To My Old Brown Earth, (1964). Composer: Pete Seeger
I wish I could tell you, but memories fade. The name of a frequently visited mountain in northern Mexico escapes me, but it was not too far from Monterrey, Mexico, where Saddleback Mountain overlooks the city. Forgive me for my mental erasers.
Every summer, at the church I attended as a teenager, the youth group visited an American missionary family stationed in Monterrey, Mexico. We teens would spend a week putting our shoulders to the plow, getting our fingernails dirty, right alongside them. Trust me, the sun was hot, the sweat bountiful, and Montezuma’s revenge (sickness) was eventful.
Certainly, our journey to Mexico was more than just a terrific excursion, but a true life-learning experience, as well. The time I spent there, working with the impoverished and hungry, can never be replaced.
Our budget was always low, even though we spent each year raising funds for the trip. Our jaunt below the border, was aboard a couple of old converted (Excuse the pun.) school buses, plus a van. Of course, when we weren’t doing missionary work, we were given tours and sightseeing trips.
One particular year, I believe it to be the summer of ’75, we went on a trip to one of the highest mountain peaks in northern Mexico. It was an adventure, to say the least. The trip consisted of a winding rocky road, in cork-screw style, up the mountain. The scenery was delightful and the air was thin. One of the first things I noticed was the uneasy pit in my belly when turning the corners. You guessed it…NO GUARDRAILS! It looked something like this…
Believe me when I say, the above is not much of an exaggeration. About every mile or so, when the cliffs allowed, a second lane forked-off for a few yards, only to mesh into a single lane once again. When a car, God forbid another bus, would come from the other direction, it was a slow, tight squeeze to get by. At times, it was inch-by-inch. One of our youth pastors drove our bus. The other was driven by a layman from our congregation. All I could do was to sit there with visions of us tumbling down the escarpment to our demise. There’s a vague memory of holding tightly to the back of the seat in front of me as I held my breath around those curves. I wondered if our parents would have approved of the ascent.
By lunchtime, the two buses, reached the summit, or near it. There, we enjoyed a fun picnic as we could see forever. Naturally, I was not looking forward to the ride back down the mountain. Before you knew it, it was late afternoon. The time had arrived to climb aboard the old bounce-queen for the trip down.
Although in low gear, we rode the brakes on the way down, along with great caution. We squeaked by the corners and curves, keeping the tires as far away from the rocky edges as possible. You know, they say not to look down, but I’m a glutton for fear. When I wasn’t looking down the face of the cliffs, I noticed most of the girls in our group were looking down at their feet. The thought crossed my mind that they were just not into looking out the cliff-side windows. Then I spied a few of them praying silently. I’m not afraid to tell you, they were time-sensitive petitions. A nightmare was about to descend upon us all.
At one point, about halfway down, our brakes burned out. Our quick-thinking youth pastor pulled up on the emergency brake lever immediately. The emergency brake didn’t do much as gravity was the enemy. An eerie hush fell over the bus. Not one screamed, cried out, or yelled. It was that serious. Keep in mind, this was in the mid ’70’s, no cell phones. Our other bus, behind us, had no clue we were in trouble. We all feverishly stuck our arms out the windows, frantically motioning the bus to find a place in the narrow road to pass us by in order to get in front of us. After about a minute, the driver got the idea, as we were moving ahead faster than what was required. During this near-panic, while coasting toward complete calamity, we all looked for the road to separate into the two lanes for a safe passing. Just before a scary bend in the road, there was a wonderful sight of the single lane breaking into two. The rear bus quickly passed us, pulling in front of our bus before reaching the dangerous curve ahead. As our bumpers hit we began to slow down to a welcomed stop.
THANK GOD FOR…
Guardrails, for the most part, are something we rarely think about, or even notice. Usually, we only think of guardrails when we hit one. Countless lives have been saved by these extruded lengths of alloy, or concrete. If only the Mexican government thought the same concerning that mountain road.
How many times have we put up guardrails in our lives? Boundaries come in all shapes and sizes. At other times, we plow-over our personal guardrails for what we believe will be better scenery. How many times have we looked back to acknowledge moments of a downward spiral from an out-of-control drive to the edge of stability? Oh, don’t get me started. My life’s brakes have failed way more than I want to admit. Sure, I could fill-up pages of blogs with my mistakes and sins, due to misguided, or misdirected notions.
When you think about it, guardrails are put in place not for aesthetic-sake. Guardrails are not part of a conversation piece while on the road to a better place. We drive by them at 75mph with the full throttle of taking them for granted. The next time you are driving on a high overpass, picture the bridge without guardrails. It gets you thinking. Guardrails stand in efforts to protect from sheer inertia, sheer momentum. Guardrails are placed to defend from gravity, if you should veer off-road.
Laws do the same. Laws guard us from destruction, desolation, and death. Laws were made to protect, like guardrails, lest we go too far to the edge of where you will not want to be. In the same way, law is an educator, a teacher, a guide. There’s a scriptural theme which delivers the warning signs. In essence it says, with great wisdom, something like, “Danger ahead! Here, and no further.”
If not for Jesus, who fulfilled the Mosaic law for me, (Galatians 4:4-5) I certainly would be condemned in a million ways. My efforts will always derail me because I’m only…(Dare I say?), human.
If you’re like me, there is a tendency to let down the guard too often. Sometimes we let down our guard with relationships, substances or thought-life, just to name a few. There have been times in my life when I allowed my heart to be totally unguarded. Like a hungry wolf, those who are bent on playing the disruptor, delusionist, and disabler, find an unguarded heart by mere sense of smell. If you’ve not been in the cross-hairs, just wait. You will be. Whether it’s a drug, a person, or a darkened thought, which births action, it is wise not to be controlled by the inertia of such. That final step is a long one.
Life is a winding trek. Its curves are cut-out of the bedrock with unanticipated sharp turns. Not to mention, the trip is way too short to veer off course into an abyss that is only beautiful from a distance.
An authentic, fail-safe brake system is only possible with the tested and approved, fuel for the race.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Solomon – Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)