This was not a typical Sunday for our family. The Commander Supreme had been on top of the logistics for this one all summer. There was no run for me on this Sunday morning. No sir, I had my orders, and I was ready to move out
First, we were driving Andrew to northern Virginia to participate in the Greater Richmond Aquatics League Champs Competition. After Champs, we were back in the van with a destination of Goshen, Virginia to drop Andrew off at Boy Scout camp for the week.
While we were driving to Champs, our two daughters, Lauren and Elizabeth, were supposed to be making their final preps for a youth mission trip to Philadelphia.
From a family dynamics perspective, this was an interesting pairing for a mission trip. Betsy and I debated all week as to whether we should warn Forrest(youth director) about these two.
Since Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”, we decided to gamble with the concept that maybe after the trip Philadelphia might be known as the “City of Sisterly Love”.
Well, we all awoke at our appointed times. Even our sleepyhead, Elizabeth, much to Lauren’s relief was up and making her final preps for departure. The Commander Supreme made last minute checks of everyone’s list of orders, then we said our goodbyes, and phase one of the operation was off to Champs.
While driving to Champs the Commander Supreme worried out loud. Would the girls make it to church without trading verbal insults? I hope they are not too disappointed that we aren’t there for their send off. Do you think we should have called Forrest, and then the cell phone rang.
If we’d had a tension meter in the van it would have gone off the scale. It was Lauren, not the Henrico County police. They needed some large trash bags to finish off the packing. Whew! what a relief, they only needed trash bags, and as usual like all great leaders, the Commander had this covered.
We made it to Champs at George Mason University’s beautiful Aquatics Center. This sure beat being in the intense July heat and humidity, swatting mosquitoes, tramping around in mud, and dodging lightning bolts which had happened at past Champs events. Even though the event managed to get off schedule, by late afternoon, Andrew was finished, and we departed ready to find Goshen.
Our exit out of the Aquatics Center put us on the connector that would take us to Interstate 66 which would eventually hook us up to Interstate 81.
It had been those before kids years since Betsy and I had traveled through this part of the state. As we pushed on to 66, the landscape became more appealing, and we could make out hazy ridges of mountains as we traveled farther west.
It was somewhere along Interstate 66 that I saw the name of a road that caught my attention. Against the road sign’s standard green background, I read the white lettering of words— Dismal Hollow Road. I wondered what the story was behind its naming?
The road’s name might make a great title for a country song. I can imagine the lyrics—“ and that’s where she broke my heart, and my life fell apart, down on Dismal Hollow Road,” or “ that’s where the revenuers broke my will and found my still, down on Dismal Hollow Road.”
That street name stuck with me as we connected with 81 headed south for Staunton. The miles were clicking off, as we rolled up and down the hills taking in the appealing scenery of the world’s best artist.
And somewhere along this route, I saw another sign that caught my eye. It was homemade, staked into the ground, a white paint background with these handprinted words scrawled across the board— Jesus Come Soon.
Now, we really had the making for a country song—“Jesus Come Soon To Dismal Hollow Road.” However, my daydreaming was quickly drawn back into reality by the Commander Supreme as we approached the first exit.
Remember, when your on a road trip, in uncharted territory, with daylight a premium, it is critical to devote all of your attentional skills to the directions given by the Commander Supreme. Believe me I did, and thankfully, I made no turning errors.
We finally found Goshen.
Tucked back off Virginia Route 42, it took bouncing on dusty gravel road beds, driving across a lake dam, and marveling at the occasional deer before we made it to the base camp.
Once there, Andrew was greeted by of all things— a young lady. She was a Boy Scout employee who helped him check in and then asked him if he was ready for the long hike to his troop’s camp site. We said our goodbyes to Andrew, and left him with the ticks, chiggers, poison oak, and other creatures that might find him as fair game during the week.
Even though it was getting late, we decided to make the drive back to Richmond. Thankfully, I managed to stay awake. Partly because the words on those signs kept bouncing in my brain.
Lately, it feels like our world might be a Dismal Hollow . The ever present reminders of 9-11, suicide bombers, excessive greed and forgotten integrity in our corporate boardrooms, child abductors, not to mention drought and wildfires.
With those concerns, I understand the urgency with the scribbled road sign words, “Jesus Come Soon.” It’s like an SOS message, Jesus hurry up, get down here, and fix this mess on Dismal Hollow Road.
Truth be told, Jesus cruises by those signs everyday.
He’s already down here.
He is in our hearts.
Our challenge is to find him in our hearts.
The sooner we make this discovery the better.
Dismal Hollow Roads are not going anywhere, unless we commit our hearts to their repair.
Author’s note: This piece was originally written on or about July 31, 2002. I recently revisited the piece and made a few tweaks. In a slightly different format, this was used as a devotional for the Outreach Sunday school class at Trinity UMC in Richmond, Virginia probably in August 2002.