I travel up and down the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway often. I may be going to the northeast part of our state or the southwest and drive along that ancient road that Native Americans and frontiers people use to walk or ride on horseback. Now the speed limit remains 50 miles per hour which is extremely fast when you think about those early settlers and how fast they were traveling. Just above where the Natchez Trace crosses over Highway 82 there is a sign for a long stretch of the road that tells you what you’re about to see is tornado damage. It was part of the outbreak of tornadoes in April 2011 that crossed over woods and fields, towns and cities in our state. It was the same outbreak that went through Smithville, Mississippi, and devastated that town and killed so many people.
While tornadoes do not pay attention to state lines, some of those tornadoes crossed on over out of Mississippi into Alabama, and one was the devastating storm that went through Tuscaloosa and killed many more. Scores of times, maybe hundreds since the tornadoes, I have been through that section on the Trace that is marked “Tornado Damage.” For there are hundreds of trees that were twisted and broken, many were uprooted and many were just stripped of limbs and leaves. But time has passed, seasons have come and gone, new growth has come out on old trees and new trees have sprung up and the landscape that was bare and broken has changed dramatically.
I suppose in about one more growing cycle the folks at the Natchez Trace Parkway probably will take down those signs because, for someone who did not know, it would be hard to even tell that something unusual had taken place there several years ago. It is God’s plan for restoration of the land that has been altered by high winds and falling trees and in time new generations will pass over the same asphalt and not even know there was a frightening, cataclysmic storm experience that had happened right where they are. Some say that time is a great healer, and I guess there is a sense that that is true, but in reality, it’s not just the passing of days or years that heals, but all of the things that God has put in place and the support mechanisms of life that can make a difference as time moves on.
There are several things that I could name, but one is to point out that growth changes the landscape of life. I’ve noticed through the months and years that every time I come through that area of devastation in the woods created by that tornado, that while there are some scars, there are also improvements and the growth of trees. The growth of weeds and vegetation out there on the hillside has slowly but surely improved the looks and healed scars. As small children all of us may have come face-to-face with fears that may keep us awake or shake us. Some of the fears are overcome by our physical growth, and we realize that a small little green lizard is not going to attack us and drag us off into the woods. We may not like them when we get grown, but from childhood to manhood the growth process in between alleviates a lot of the horror in our lives. I listen to the Lord as He says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God” (Isa. 41:10). And day by day in the process of growing and the progress that we make along the way, the strength of God overcomes our fears. So it’s more than time that heals, but growth in life heals some of the scars of storms that have touched all of us.
But I have watched as I have passed through that area of storm destruction that as time moves on, others help in the healing. Now in the landscape of life, others includes wildlife and small animals, birds and all kinds of fowl. For a while I never saw any birds around there. Their habitat had been seriously wounded. No doubt some of their nests were destroyed. No doubt some of them lost their baby bird family in the storm, but now, I have spotted the return of the wildlife. Now, how does that help? Well, who knows how many seeds the birds bring in and out and scatter them in the process? How many rabbits or rats, fox and deer come through there knocking off seeds or getting them hung in their fur, depositing them somewhere out on an empty spot?
It’s interesting to see how all this agricultural stuff takes place, all under the watchful care of God. But the fact is I’ve never seen anybody out there sowing seed, scattering new potential plants, but it is happening and it does happen in the damaged parts of our lives, too. Maybe someone in your church has just caringly brought a word of encouragement to you, spoken a right thing to your heart. Maybe a Sunday school teacher, maybe a word in the sermon, came to you and it was as if God said, “I’m glad you came to church today because I’ve got this especially for your heart.” I can tell you there are people all around us at church, maybe at work, maybe an old friend, maybe somebody you don’t even know. God uses them to help you in ways that they do not even know, but He knows and they bring just the right thing to help heal one of the scars in the landscape of your life.
Do you not find it interesting, fascinating, incredible that God, in describing in His word, makes sure that the name of the man who helped His son would be recorded for everyone to read for all the ages? You know his name – Simon of Cyrene. Probably, undoubtedly, the plan of his day had not included picking up a cross and carrying it to Golgotha for another man. There he is in the crowd, compelled by the soldiers to come out of the crowd, pick up the cross and carry the load for the Son of God who is about to be placed on that cross. I do believe that God in His plan and oversight of our lives puts us in places where we can reach out and pick someone up and we have no idea of the significance of what we’re doing impacting that life in a glorious way.
It is probably safe to say that everybody you see today, whether you know them or they are strangers, has probably had storms come through their lives. Broken things, ruined things, have been left behind and just in passing God wants to use you to help heal the scars and restore a soul.