Spring revealed the rough winter it was for people, trees and roads. Since those are three of my favorite things, it was rough for me, too.
At regular intervals the crinkly brown grass on interstate highway medians wears dark scars, muddy tracks, remainders and reminders of drivers’ unfortunate missteps from the firm, sure, asphalt slabs, into the quagmire of the unpaved median.
Sometimes charcoal colored stains left by locked down, smoking tires run to the edge of the asphalt and become muddy tracks in the median. In wettest conditions those tracks were short and quickly grew deep.
When drivers in cars buried in median mud tried to free themselves without aid, their tracks smudged wide and sloppy and the edges are not sharply defined. Their spinning wheels frothed back and forth, leaving a deep, muddy reminder of their anger and futility.
I saw a metal pole marking the sudden stop of a single pair of tracks; all that remained of a highway information sign. Maybe it lifted a mute caution to slow down, or that vision might be limited by fog, or the road could be dangerous when icy. Maybe it said “Put Down the Phone and Drive.”
Sometimes a single track carved a large ellipse where it dipped into the center grass with one wheel before the driver pulled it back onto solid ground.
Several tracks made a big “C” from one side of the interstate, through the grass, weeds and lilies and up onto the other side, heading the opposite direction. You’ve probably seen state troopers make that move, and then turn on their blue lights and double your heart rate until they zip by you, their eyes on the driver who just roared past.
One day I saw an 18-wheeler still in the tracks he made through the muddy ditch on I-85 near Salisbury. A large tree split his tractor cab from the bumper, through the engine compartment clear back to the windshield. I suspect those were that driver’s last tracks.
When snow and ice cover the land, when rain fogs our windshields, when dark nights and glaring lights limit our sight and we shake our heads to stay alert, we want to keep our wheels on the super slab and make no tracks in the median.
But we all make tracks in life. We leave a mark wherever we step, a mark that says we were here, in the right track or the wrong.
Those who come along after us see the tracks we left in the lives of our children. They see our tracks in the workplace, and at church and in the smiles – or despair – of our spouses.
We leave broad, ugly slashing tracks across the green medians of children we abuse. Our careless cutting words scar their tender hearts. The backs of our hands knock them toward the ditch rather than helping to keep them straight and steady.
On the worst days of winter travel, drivers before you wear clear tracks through the slush and leave a dry route to follow. If you stayed in those tracks, you would stay out of the ditch.
We can do that, too, in our children’s lives. We leave dry tracks through icy roads for them when we love our spouses; when we teach them to pray; when we give them the freedom to run to the edge of the cliff, but hold onto their shirttails; when we build their self-esteem by holding high expectations and giving them tasks to accomplish; when our presence at their recitals or athletic events or school meetings verifies our support; when we love them unconditionally through long hair and short, through good grades and bad, through speeding tickets and car wrecks; when their tears fall on our shoulders and not on the floor.
Thank God for the tracks you followed. Ask His strength to leave good tracks behind.