Rumble Strips of Life

Recently I was visiting with one of our fine pastors. He began sharing with me a moment that had taken place in his life that was both eye-opening and soul-searching. He is a fine pastor serving a wonderful church, but just in the general process of life as it is with most of us, he was caught up in all of the needs and responsibilities, decisions and meetings, family, upcoming sermons, and on and on. The demands seemed to be coming rapidly and unendingly. All of a sudden, caught up in the swirl of needs and constant activities, there was a moment of, “What in the world is going on here?” Almost as soon as that thought washed across his soul, he was back in the thick of things, full-throated and warm-hearted and ready to tackle the world. With a sense of joy and exuberance, he told me, “It was almost like, you know, when you’re driving down the road and you get too far to the side and those things that make the noise when you get off on the side of the road?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Well, that was kind of what it was like, and I just got back in my lane and where I was supposed to be.” All was well.

Shortly after that, I ran across a friend of mine who is connected with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. I asked him, “What are those things called along the side of the road that are put there so that when you get over a little bit to the edge of the road, they start making your car vibrate and you hear this noise?” He knew exactly what I was talking about and said, “They’re called rumble strips.” How appropriate. How many, many times have I been driving down the road and gotten over on the rumble strips? They will get your attention and generally get you back in line.

I got to thinking about how many times that happens in life, not just on the highway but how God has worked in and around us to put His rumble strips along the lanes of our lives. I think you can even find rumble strips in the Bible. Over in the book of Numbers in chapter 22, there is a prophet by the name of Balaam who received instructions from God not to go with the princes who had come to him and wanted him to put a curse on God’s people. Balaam got up the next morning and got on his donkey and started riding, contrary to the will of God. It wouldn’t be long until Balaam’s life began to be pulled and pushed into what was going on, and the most amazing thing happened as God opened the mouth of the donkey. The donkey began to speak to Balaam. Balaam’s response would ultimately be, “I have sinned; …I will get me back again” (Num. 22:34).  It seems as though in that twenty-second chapter of Numbers, God put down some rumble strips in Balaam’s life and there was a wonderful wake-up moment as he came into a new understanding of the wonder of God’s grace in his life.

Many of us have been there. Maybe we didn’t hear the donkey talking clearly in our ears, but we have heard the rumblings of God’s love urging us to get back into the center of His will. I can tell you that I have been down that road, and I can also tell you I have not met anybody who has not been there also. The wonderful thing about rumble strips is that they are there night and day. They are not there to hurt us but to help us and remind us of where we’re supposed to be. The folks in front of us and the folks behind us may also roll over the edge of the road and get into the rumble strips and they too are reminded: Get back over here.

I think about the rumble strip in the book of Acts, chapter nine. Maybe it’s a better description to say a rumble light, for Saul of Tarsus is on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. He is angry. He’s mad at the church. He’s mad at God. He’s mad at the Christians, and he’s going to take care of them. On his way, you remember, he encountered a blinding light. A brilliant rumble strip showed up in his life, and he fell to the ground and suddenly met face-to-face with not only the brilliance but the wonder and blessing that would come from Jesus, his Lord to be. It’s just a light, as in Numbers 22 it’s just a donkey, but God can take the unusual things in your life and mine and just in seconds speak to us, point us in the right direction, and bless us.

The rumble strips of God are real in my life and yours. What a joy to realize that fact, and in hearing the rumble strip noise know that God cares for us. One other time (there are dozens of instances in the Bible), one of His finest disciples heard a noise as recorded in the closing verses of the book of Matthew, chapter 26. Jesus had told Simon Peter that before the sun came up, before the cock began to crow, Peter would deny Him thrice. No, that would never happen, Peter protested. Peter was sure he would never fail his Savior. Others might fail Him, others might even abandon Him, but not Peter. It was after Peter said, “I do not know the Man,” and began to curse and swear, that the cock crowed. The rooster rumble strip had arrived.

Peter heard the cock crowing, and the Bible says he remembered the words of Jesus. Verse 74 of that chapter says, “He went out and wept bitterly.” Peter had gotten away from the closeness of Jesus. He had gotten caught up in the things that pulled him away in the world and there he was in that crowd and he heard the cock crow after everybody else had heard him say, “I do not know the Man.” In just nanoseconds, his heart was pulled back to Jesus. God had placed there alongside his path the rooster rumble strip.

How many of us have been down the paths of life and maybe there’s not a rooster that lives within a hundred miles of us, but God has a way of turning us, changing us, calling us, reminding us, loving us? It may not be a donkey or rooster. It may not be a bright light. It may be an illness or a song, a sermon or the love of a friend, or a stranger’s kindness or an unexpected blessing that suddenly grabs us by the heart and says, “Get back in your lane and press on.”

That would be the right moment for every one of us to stop and say, “Thank You, Lord, for the rumble strips You have put in my life. Keep me in the center of Your will.”

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer