The road to hell, say the sages, is paved with good intentions. Heaven’s streets, croons an old gospel hymn, are paved with gold.
Where I live, most of the roads aren’t paved at all. Main Street was once paved—still is, around the pot-holes. All the rest are gravel.
Six streets run north and six run south in my village. Three travel east, three west. The directions share parallel ruts, so that makes nine.
Gravel roads are dusty in the summer and trails of rutted, muddy slop in the spring. Ours heaved last winter. Some of the resulting sink holes are large enough to hang up a Hummer. Not that I’ve ever seen one of those in town.
For about six months of the year—the snowy ones—our gravel roads are snow-packed, beautifully smooth and church-quiet. Our own street’s winter traffic flow averages about a vehicle every three hours, and a snowmobile a minute, some weekends.
Things change in the summer. One Saturday afternoon last July we had a regular rush hour.
“Hon, look at this,” the Preacher called from the living room. Outside, we watched a lawn tractor clipping down Second Avenue. Behind it trailed a large tree, likely felled in a recent storm. Another mini-John Deere followed, also dragging a tree. Every so often the drivers looked back, skidded to a stop, hopped off and dashed about picking up broken branches. Tossing them onto the tree, they jumped back on, gunned it, and took off again, heading for the natural dump around the corner.
The miniature tractors went back and forth all afternoon. I videoed them for a few minutes—a clip that my city sister finds absurdly amusing for some reason, as in “You know you’re in a small town when….”
The most important thing about a road is not what it’s paved with—it’s where it leads. No matter how crowded, how smooth, how many lanes, ruts, or potholes a street has—the purpose of a road is to get somewhere.
Several times a week, I put my dusty car in reverse and back onto our street. Avoiding ruts, I turn at the corner and aim for the paved highway leading to the city where we lived for almost two decades. On the return trip, I don’t mind the gravel. After a busy day at the office, it leads where I most want to go—home.
At the end of all our lives (if God gives time for reflection) you and I will look back and remember our journeys. What will matter most then is not the type of roads we travelled, but the destination to which we’re heading at that point.
The message of Jesus Christ challenges those standing at life’s many crossroads, no matter when we encounter them: Take the narrow road, the hard road, the road less travelled. It leads home—and I’ll go with you.
Sounds like the road to heaven is paved too—with gravel and grace.
Are Heaven’s streets really paved with gold? Find out at http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=4199