Chapter 14: Signs (part 2)

(I have been waiting along the road for my husband Rick to pick us up in the truck from our day’s hike, but he somehow sailed by without seeing us.  We are left on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone coverage to reach him. This is a continuation of the post found  here.) 

How much quieter it is now on the side of the road.  To be unnoticed and overlooked leaves an uneasy silence.  Only a few deep breaths ago I was full of relishing the signs of spring around me.  But now, in the empty space of being left behind, I am paying attention to the angle of the sun.  I estimate the hours of daylight remaining (just in case) and hear the sound of a mower far away uphill.  Would that direction lead to a land line phone at someone’s farm?  I try my cell phone again, but it only beeps an “emergency numbers only” signal.  I wonder: if I dial 911, would it really work?  I reluctantly admit that this is not a situation that warrants my trying it out…yet.

Chester (my dog) and I begin walking in the direction that Rick’s truck disappeared.  We walk for maybe five minutes before coming to a strange, three-way intersection with one road curving narrowly under an abandoned railroad bridge.  The road sign is rather confusing. The road I am standing on is not labeled the same as my trail guide indicates.  So now I wonder if Rick was looking for me on the wrong road because of the sign confusion?  Unfortunately I have no idea which of the two remaining roads Rick hurriedly drove down, so rather than stand and look lost (which technically I’m not; here’s the railroad after all, so I must be at Cohill Station), Chester and I walk back back to the apparently unremarkable, unnoticeable wooden bridge where we had been bypassed.  I don’t relax and sit down enjoying the spring weather anymore; instead I  decide we will be a better sign seen more quickly if we stand up on our tired legs.

The afternoon of waiting drags on and becomes the hour for folks to be driving home from work, although in this remote area there can’t be many homes to drive home to.  I notice that I am getting hungry and remember that I met the wife of Hancock’s mayor this morning.  She was power-walking on the trail when, passing her, I asked her about the best place to eat dinner.  She diplomatically told me the town’s restaurants were all good, but she offered the name of the longest running, most historical eating spot.  Home-style cooking, she said.  Beside this interminably empty road, I can smell a Maryland crabcake coming…if I ever get out of here.  Each sound of a  vehicle approaching from around the bend brings new hope.
After five or six disappointments with long spaces in between, the black truck, much slower now, comes into view.  This time I’m ready, start waving sooner, and pour all my mental concentration into being conspicuous.  Only when the truck finally veers sharply over into the small cleared area, do I know for sure that dog and human have been discovered, that we have successfully been enough of a sign for Rick to pull over.

After all, as I mull over this incident later, we disciples of Jesus are suppose to be signs: signs to others that God indeed has come.  That God is healing.  That God is feeding.  That God’s Messiah is abundantly present and working in this age.  Am I a sign that is enthusiastically pointing to Christ’s presence?  Or am I sitting down daydreaming and preoccupied, lost from view in the weeds and grass as others rush by in their busy life’s focus?  (I find out later Rick’s eyes were focused down on his GPS on the first drive-by.)

Being a sign to others that God is present in the world can take some intentional effort on my part, and, at the very least, require the Holy Spirit’s intervention for connections to be made:  a smile, a wave, an invitation, putting ourselves out into the road of conversation.  How to do that in everyday life?  A bowl of soup, a clean bed, a pounding hammer, a note written.  My purpose is to be a sign to the searcher who is looking.  Of course, as a sign I may not recognize who is searching, and the searcher may not have a clue what sign they are looking for, but it is up to God to bring the two of us together.

Right now, however, I am simply relieved that this sign (me) and this searcher (Rick and black truck) have found each other.  I pull open the rear door and let Chester jump in, throw my backpack on the back floor, and we head into town for crabcakes.  There’s enough daylight left to admire the ribbon of blue river winding below the layers of hazy green mountain ridges piling one behind the other.  These are visible signs that it is once again a good spring on God’s earth.

This pilgrim prays:  Day after day, following this path through and around, along and across, I  gaze at the signs surrounding me: signs that you are…you are…you are and always will be.  Signs that you laugh in joy like a little child over the antics of your created chipmunks.  Signs that in exuberant, chattering river noise, in the deeply graced silences along the way, and in the human but God-breathed words of ancient scripture,  you are communicating,  “I am….I am…I am always loving you.”