Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Somebody said the other day that ‘deadlines created four-lane highways.’ Being a dirt road country boy, I just had to mentally pull over to the side of the road and think about that one. Or as Daddy was fond of telling us boys back home on the farm, “Use your head for something besides a hat rack.” I don’t think I ever saw a four-lane road till I was over 25 years old. And, conversely, I believe probably half of the people in the world today have never been on a dirt road.

Life was much slower on a dirt road. If the cows needed to cross over to the other pasture, no problem. If a car did come by, they’d stop and wait. You could stop in the middle of the road and chat with your neighbor while his cows were crossing the road. And never once would you hear the impatient honking of horns from the drivers behind you. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I ever saw two cars bumper-to-bumper back home at Route 4.

I was a junior in high school when we got our first tv. A black and white oval-shaped thing that sat on a corner table in the front room and had rabbit ears sticking out of it like something from outer space. Mother didn’t like it. So she kept it covered up with a sheet most of the time. Out of sight equals out of mind. Come to think of it, we might ought to institute that practice now. But the sheet came off our tv on Saturday night and the pace of things around the farmhouse picked up considerably.

While she was puttin’ the rooster in the pressure-cooker for Sunday dinner, Daddy was runnin’ us through the Saturday night bath production line and makin’ sure we used plenty of that black liquid polish on our Sunday go-to-meetin’ shoes. The reason for the hustle and bustle was to be ready to take the sheet off the tv and hear Lawrence Welk with his trademark a one and a two.  And when the Lenon Sisters started singing, we knew the only other sound that was to be heard in our house was the fire cracklin’ in the fireplace. And the one time we could always count on Daddy being in a good mood was when JoAnn Castle played the piano.

But deadlines created four-lane highways and we sped right into this world of run, run, run, and hurry, hurry, hurry, and pick up the pace at supersonic speeds. Do you ever notice in your rear-view mirror how impatient folks get if you’re doing the speed limit in the fast lane of traffic on the 4-lane? And if you happen to be too slow in moving over, their blood pressure shoots up, they start with the frettin’ and fumin’, and by the time they get where they’re going, they’re like Daddy’s ol’ pulpwood truck. Boilin’ over like Old Faithful! Because of deadlines, tempers flare and tongues fly. People start acting like they brush their teeth with gun powder. All because we’re in too big a hurry to get where we’re going, so we have to have a four-lane road to get there.

James, the brother of Jesus, has some good instructions for us when it comes to when to be slow and when to be fast. In fact, there’s one quick and two slow’s in James 1:19-20. Quick to listen, slow to talk, and slow to get mad, because everything God wants us to be goes out the window when we get mad. You can tell what a person’s made out of by what it takes to make him or her lose it, blow their cool, go ballistic, or whatever it’s called these days. In fact James goes so far as to say that if somebody thinks they’re religious but can’t control their tongue, their religion is not worth a plug nickel (James 1:26).

So, in a world without dirt roads, what can we do? Slow down, take a deep breath, take a chill pill.  Whatever. Just know that slow is good. It’s OK to be slow. Don’t you know that those two turtles made it to the Big Boat Ride with Noah? And the psalmist wants us to know that God approves of slow, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). There are two great commands in that short sentence. First, slow down and pull over to the side of your road. And secondly, understand that God made this world and He’s still in control. So it makes no difference if you do 90mph or 40, if He wants you to get there, you’ll get there.

So, the next time you see me pokin’ along in the slow lane, wave at me when you go by. In my mind, I’m on a dirt road waitin’ for the cows to cross over.