There is an interesting and somewhat dangerous experience that happens in the waning days of winter. In places where the pavement of the road contracts and is often pummeled with salt and other chemicals, large potholes grow at an alarming rate. We have now entered such a time. Most streets, having frozen and thawed many times over the last months, are now filled with gaping holes, some as large as several feet in diameter. Many streets are so laden with these potholes that one must drive at reduced speeds, swerving and swaying to avoid destroying their car or disappearing into the hole altogether.
On my way into the office this morning I heard on the radio of a link on Minnesota Public Radio simply called "Search Potholes". It allows people to report potholes on various stretches of road. An area map is then marked with an orange flag to show the egregious pothole. Supposedly drivers might steer clear of these hazards by knowing where they are located. Visiting the sight I saw that, at least in certain parts of the cities, it would be nearly impossible to drive any place!
"Search Potholes" got me thinking about these road nuisances in a more metaphorical way. I thought about the people I know who are experiencing some dangerous roads. Most of them did not know the 'potholes' that steered their life in a different way, or brought it to a halt altogether, were out there. They were simply going along in their usual way when 'BOOM' they hit a deep hole breaking their speed and their spirit. I am thinking of a woman I know who is doing mighty battle for a second time with cancer. She had no idea the potholes were ahead of her ready to zap her of her energy, her zest for living. I also think of those I know who are finding themselves out of work or under-employed, people who were just cruising along in their usual way and a big hole opened up in front them, threatening to swallow all they had known. Or then there are the people of Haiti whose lives have been turned upside down by the aftermath of the earthquake. As they literally pull themselves out of the mire, there must be so many days when they long to have had a sign, a warning of what was ahead. So many potholes.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a way to search for the potholes that bring these kinds of stress and strain, even disaster, to our lives? Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to go to a "Search Potholes" link and know which roads to avoid, which ones to take? Of course, there isn't. But there is wisdom to be gleaned from these pothole days. When you drive along a road with little knowledge of what it ahead, going a little slower,helps. It also is wise to drive with intention watching with wide eyes and an alert mind to the next pothole that might appear. It is also good to keep open and flexible, taking a turn that might result in a less bumpy ride. And it is really good to be gentle with yourself, snuggling deep into the padding of your car seat, finding a nice comfortable spot to protect you against the jar and jumble of the road.
The good news is that soon, when the days get warmer and the sun is higher in the sky, those potholes will get filled in, patched over creating a smooth ride again. Sometimes it just takes a little waiting, a lot of patience and a good dose of prayer for those bumps in life to smooth out. And when that happens we might realize that the potholes had lessons all their own.