Heights don’t usually affect me. But a week ago Sunday on the way home from Arizona, we got caught in an I-10 closure. We decided to swap the 5-hour crawl for a 2-hour adventure. We turned our dusty CRV around and headed back to Palm Springs. There we found a bougainvillea-lined alternate route (Hwy. 74) leading from flat sandy desert to towering mountain peaks. Why not? We had 4-wheel drive.
The serpentine climb steepened quickly. I smiled—until we rounded a shoulder-less hairpin turn and I glanced down. Just beyond the dented silver guardrail, a dizzying plunge of speckled red rock set my heart racing.
I quickly looked away. Although I wasn’t driving, I kept my eyes on the road through the rest of the tight switchbacks, many of which lacked guardrails. Finally, the road broadened enough to allow for rocky shoulders and it felt safe enough to look around.
The route was stunning. Crimson blossoms topped bronzed foliage; tiny lemon-yellow flowers danced on gray-green stems; and withered cactus flowers waved atop tall spires. These suddenly gave way to pine trees with prickly needles looking like green pins protruding from brown pincushions. Once over the range, the road wound down among broadleaved trees and sprawling cattle ranches. At dusk we entered the lush horse and wine valley of Temecula. An hour later we pulled into our driveway, watched the aging garage door creak open, parked, and stepped out of the car onto stiff, aching legs. We were home in time for dinner.
Life can sometimes take us on an adrenaline-rushing detour with harrowing heights where we must keep our eyes focused, not on the path, but on the One who knows the path and leads the way.
I remember one such side trip when my husband Clay was diagnosed as having an aggressive form of cancer.
Foolishly, I Googled the hospital’s diagnosis and read it had 100% fatality within two years. That was a hairpin turn with a harrowing drop. I closed my browser. Clay had to back out of a teaching contract that conflicted with surgery, and finances became another potential plummet. In fact, we maneuvered through one tricky turn after another.
I had to fix my eyes on Jesus and deal with each day’s challenges as they came, forgetting about the earthly future and keeping in mind eternal hope.
Clay will write on his ordeal one day, so all I’ll say now is that the first diagnosis was mistaken: the cancer was slow growing and treatable. He’s been cancer-free now for eight years.
As on the road trip, once we were over the highest mountaintop, the scenery changed quickly and often. Another employer offered Clay work he could do from home as he recuperated. It took time to recover financially, but we managed. The cancer gave his writing and teaching on why God allows evil greater authority—the fertile valley unseen from the backside of the initial peaks.
We haven’t reached our ultimate destination yet—that won’t happen in this lifetime. But we will be there in time for dinner.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:2