On a recent trip with my daughter to El Salvador (murder capital of the world), she suggested we eat at a restaurant that overlooks a scenic volcanic lake. It was to be a nice break from the humble homes we’d been visiting, and so we downloaded the shortest route to our phones and began following Google’s blue arrow (like Dorothy on her yellow brick road) toward what my daughter promised would be the most delicious food we would eat all trip.
The road, which headed into the jungle, soon narrowed, the pavement ended, and gravel started. No worries—Google’s beckoning blue arrow promised we could confidently drive on. However, the deeper we delved into the wild, the worse the road became. The gravel turned dusty. Dust made way for divots, and every bump we hit in our tiny, gutless rental car made us wish we’d opted for a Jeep.
To our dismay, the jungle also thickened, with vines stretching heavenward along both sides of the road blocking out much of the light. The rays that did make it through mingled with the churning dust to create an eerie, glowing cloud, reminiscent of many late night horror movies I’d watched as a child.
To make matters worse, we’d occasionally pass men wearing machetes. They’d step off the road to make room for our little car to crawl pass and then twist around and track us warily. I avoided eye contact, hoping they weren’t thinking, Hey, we could totally kill these people out here in the middle of nowhere with our machetes and no one would ever know!
Our road, soon a trail, not only turned rocky but steep, crawling us down one hill and then chugging us up the next. After maneuvering down one particularly steep incline, I somberly announced, “We can’t turn around. With all the loose dirt and bumps on that hill, this gutless car would never have enough power to make it back up.”
We no choice we continued forward, eventually coming to a fork that wasn’t showing on our map. I steered left, following the better path, but my daughter soon announced, “The GPS shows us heading off into the jungle. We’d better turn around and follow the other fork instead.” In truth, we had no choice. Not much farther ahead, I could see that what I had thought to be the better road was completely blocked.
Once back on the path, the trail worsened still and soon grass, a good foot high, was growing in the median. Could we sue Google? The two ruts ahead were no longer worthy to be labeled a road and I was officially worried. I was supposed to be protecting my family. Instead, we were lost in the middle of a Central American jungle, unable to turn around, and I was the only guy around for miles without a machete.
We inched forward on the weed-ridden path down another steep incline to where I was certain jungle cannibals were gleefully dancing around a waiting fire. Weeds scraped like nails along the car’s belly and I could only wonder if the next rock that banged the car’s underside would be the one to take out our oil pan. And then I noticed another machete-clad man hiking up the hill toward us. I may have imagined it, but I swear the theme song from Jaws also began to play. I readied myself to scream like a girl—but there was no need. Unlike the other men we’d passed who’d stared at us like we were weak animals lagging at the rear of the pack, this man hardly paid attention. I took it as a sign he wouldn’t kill us and rolled down my window. “Sir?” I called. He paused, turned and stepped toward us. Then, in a tone as casually as I could muster for the circumstance—as if it was completely normal to strike up a conversation with a machete-lugging stranger deep in a Central American jungle—I asked, “Is this the way to the lake? And do you think our car will make it?”
He took my questions seriously, glancing first at our dirty and tired rental car and then down the path ahead. When he turned back, he looked directly at me as if to make sure I’d understand. His nodding head accompanied his words. “Yes,” he answered with confidence, “this road will take you to the lake.” And then, as if he understood my need for something more, he added, “The road is good—you will make it!” And as quickly as he had approached, he turned and strode away.
I wanted to scream back, “Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME? You think the road is GOOD?” I didn’t. After all, he was still carrying a machete. “The road is good,” I mumbled mockingly, as I dropped the car back into drive to continue weaving around potholes and boulders as we ground down the hill.
We pressed on. The road didn’t improve—but it didn’t worsen either. Finally, to our surprise and relief, the bumpy trail turned back into gravel, which turned into pavement, and within another twenty minutes, the jungle cleared to offer a view of a stunning blue lake surrounded by a ring of majestic volcanic mountains.
We pulled into the restaurant beside other cars (which had obviously come a different way on all-paved roads), and it turned out that my daughter was right—it was the best food we’d eaten all trip.
It was only after we’d finished eating, as I gazed out across the striking scene from the restaurant’s balcony, that I realized the man’s words were still echoing in my head—perhaps because he’d been right. He didn’t say the road would be easy, that it was free of rocks and bumps—because it wasn’t. Rather, he’d said the road was good, that it would lead to our destination—and what a glorious destination it turned out to be!
It was a lesson I need to remember, one I should take to heart: At times our roads will be bleak, steep, and scary. As much as we’d like to turn around, start over, take an easier path, it will be too late. There will be times when our journeys will grow especially trying and we’ll want to stray left or right, trying uncharted paths that seem more inviting, even easier. Sadly, these paths often lead to wasted time and dead ends. During our darkest moments of doubt and uncertainty, we may even look heavenward and wonder why our signal feels so weak and our directions so confusing—and we’ll doubt not only ourselves but perhaps God as well.
Through it all, we must simply press forward. God has not forgotten us. He knows our struggles. He can see us all clearly, even when we have a hard time seeing him. He is always watching, forever cheering us forward with a message that rings clear: “Press on, press on, my children. The road is good.”
Here’s the best part. When your bumpy path finally ends—and it will always end—you’ll find a scene so utterly breathtaking and beautiful, you’ll have trouble finding words deep enough or broad enough to describe the waiting majesty.
Yes, the ride through life’s jungle can be trying, but press on, my friends, press on.
“The road is good.”
Camron Wright is the author of the bestselling books Letters for Emily, The Rent Collector, The Orphan Keeper, and The Other Side of the Bridge.
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