>Traveling In the Ruts

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While we’re supposed to get another 6 inches of snow or so today, and it’s coming down pretty hard right now, there’s no mistaking that it’s “BREAKUP” time in Alaska. This is the annual spring thaw. Puddles are everywhere. Streams start flowing again. Rivers lose their ice. Cars are covered with mud. It’s a sure sign that it’s getting warmer and, no matter how much snow we get today and how much we enjoy it today, it’s not going to last for long.

And that’s good news.

Don’t get me wrong. We love our winter activities. I thoroughly appreciate winter bike rides with the dog and laps of cross country skiing with my son.  But around this time of year we start getting pretty specific in our prayers at church, praying that God would make it snow “above 500 feet.” That way, those who want to continue skiing can do so in fresh powder to their hearts content and those who wish to get their bikes out and their hiking shoes on can do so. Regardless, we know that summer is coming.

As stated above though, this is a wet time of year. Our 4 year old girls come home from daycare with their winter clothes dripping wet. The dog doesn’t keep clean on our walks. And the roads are wet. This means that our dirt roads get littered with potholes and ruts and driving on them too fast with tear up your car (and probably your neck as well). Yesterday, when I was taking the little ones to daycare, they were in their carseats in the way back of the Suburban, bouncing around as if they were bull riding. They thought it was great.  But as for driving conditions, it’s bad.

So, when the roads get this bad, I seek out the ruts (yes, that’s a picture of one downhill from our home). We’re not talking the potholes here but the real, long ruts that have been worn though the snow and ice though a combination of cars and water. It’s true that you can get jostled in the ruts, but it’s nothing compared to the potholes everywhere else.

I got to thinking.

This really is kind of counterintuitive, at least while driving. Most of the time, we try hard to stay out of the ruts. You’re able to move around a lot more when you avoid them. It’s easier to turn. You don’t get “stuck” in a rut if you’re never in them at all. But when the conditions are terrible, that well-worn, well-used path can be a respite from all that’s shaking you up.

Over the years I’ve done my share of preaching that talks about getting out of ruts, trying something new in faith and in the life of the church, not becoming a slave to the whole, “we’ve never done it that way before” mentality. I’m sure I’ve used illustrations that talk about the ruts wagon wheels made as settlers travelled West, with some trails so well used that they still exist today. The message has been, don’t be afraid to try something new.

But, really, when times get rough, when our paths get difficult, when our roads get bumpy, it can be good to sink back into the ruts of old…the familiar, the comfortable, the traditional. At hospital sides and gravesides, I’ve used the old words of “Psalm 23.” At emotional worship services when people are bearing their souls and exposing their wounds there may not be a more healing song than “Amazing Grace.” And when times get rough the traditions, the celebrations that we’ve carried with us for years, in our families and in our churches, can be just what we need to comfort us.

What are the old…familiar…well-worn ruts that you travel in when the conditions get worse?

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